If you play soccer regularly, you may be familiar with the FIFA 11+ warm-up program, which was created with the help of an international group of sports performance experts and designed for amateur and recreational soccer players aged 14 and up.
The FIFA 11+ warm-up program is an awesome 15 minutes warm-up routine that requires no special equipment or advanced knowledge, significantly reduces the risk of injuries and enhances performance. The program is centered around knee alignment, core strength, lower limb strength, balance and power generation.
Here’s how it works.
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Instead of focusing on static stretching, the FIFA 11+ program emphasizes movements that mimic game situations, plus movements that strengthen, activate and power key core and leg muscles. A 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal demonstrated that youth soccer teams who used the FIFA 11+ program on a biweekly basis saw a decline of 29% in-game injuries, 54.4% in overuse injuries, 37% in training injuries and 47.7% in severe injuries, which are astonishingly positive results.
The 11+ warm-up program made players:
- More agile
- Improved their hamstring and quadriceps strength
- Enhanced their jumping ability
- Improved their balance, lower extremity and core muscles
More importantly, the warm-up program can also be useful for non-soccer players. A 2012 study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that it could also be effective at decrease injuries for basketball players.
How to get started
The FIFA 11+ warm-up program is divided into three sections: 1) Running Exercises - 8 minutes, 2) Strength, Plyometrics and Balance - 10 minutes, and 3) Running Exercises - 2 minutes. Exercises in the Strength, Plyometrics and Balance section can be customized according to your fitness level, but for the purpose of this article, we won’t use advanced or expert exercises.
Section 1: Running Exercises – 8 minutes
1) RUNNING STRAIGHT AHEAD
Set up a course made of 6 to 10 pairs of parallel cones, approx. 5-6 metres apart. Two players start at the same time from the first pair of cones. Jog together all the way to the last pair of cones. On the way back, you can increase your speed progressively as you warm up. 2 sets.
2) RUNNING HIP OUT
Walk or jog easily, stopping at each pair of cones to lift your knee and rotate your hip outwards. Alternate between left and right legs at successive cones. 2 sets.
3) RUNNING HIP IN
Walk or jog easily, stopping at each pair of cones to lift your knee and rotate your hip inwards. Alternate between left and right legs at successive cones. 2 sets.
4) RUNNING CIRCLE PARTNER
Run forwards as a pair to the first set of cones. Shuffle sideways by 90 degrees to meet in the middle. Shuffle an entire circle around one other and then return back to the cones. Repeat for each pair of cones. Remember to stay on your toes and keep your centre of gravity low by bending your hips and knees. 2 sets.
5) RUNNING SHOULDER CONTACT
Run forwards in pairs to the first pair of cones. Shuffle sideways by 90 degrees to meet in the middle then jump sideways towards each other to make shoulder-to-shoulder contact. Note: Make sure you land on both feet with your hips and knees bent. Do not let your knees buckle inwards. Make it a full jump and synchronize your timing with your teammate as you jump and land. 2 sets
6) RUNNING QUICK FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS
As a pair, run quickly to the second set of cones then run backwards quickly to the first pair of cones keeping your hips and knees slightly bent. Keep repeating the drill, running two cones forwards and one cone backwards. Remember to take small, quick steps. 2 sets.
Section 2: Running Exercises – 8 minutes
7) THE BENCH
Starting position: Lie on your front, supporting yourself on your forearms and feet. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders. Exercise: Lift your body up, supported on your forearms, pull your stomach in and hold the position for 20-30 sec. Your body should be in a straight line. Try not to sway or arch your back. 3 sets.
8) SIDEWAYS BENCH
Starting position: Lie on your side with the knee of your lowermost leg bent to 90degrees. Support your upper body by resting on your forearm and knee. The elbow of your supporting arm should be directly under your shoulder. Exercise: Lift your uppermost leg and hips until your shoulder, hip and knee are in a straight line. Hold the position for 20-30 sec. Take a short break, change sides and repeat. 3 sets on each side.
Starting position: Kneel on a soft surface. Ask your partner to hold your ankles down firmly. Exercise: Your body should be completely straight from the shoulder to the knee throughout the exercise. Lean forward as far as you can, controlling the movement with your hamstrings and your gluteal muscles. When you can no longer hold the position, gently take your weight on your hands, falling into a push-up position. Complete a minimum of 3-5 repetitions and/or 60 sec. 1 set
10) SINGLE-LEG STANCE: HOLD THE BALL
Starting position: Stand on one leg. Exercise: Balance on one leg whilst holding the ball with both hands. Keep your body weight on the ball of your foot. Remember: try not to let your knees buckle inwards. Hold for 30 sec. Change legs and repeat. The exercise can be made more difficult by passing the ball around your waist and/or under your other knee.2 sets.
11) SQUATS WITH TOE RAISE
Starting position: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips if you like. Exercise: Imagine that you are about to sit down on a chair. Perform squats by bending your hips and knees to 90 degrees. Do not let your knees buckle inwards. Descend slowly then straighten up more quickly. When your legs are completely straight, stand up on your toes then slowly lower down again. Repeat the exercise for 30 sec. 2 sets.
12) VERTICAL JUMPS
Starting position: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips if you like. Exercise: Imagine that you are about to sit down on a chair. Bend your legs slowly until your knees are flexed to approx 90 degrees, and hold for 2 sec. Do not let your knees buckle inwards. From the squat position, jump up as high as you can. Land softly on the balls of your feet with your hips and knees slightly bent. Repeat the exercise for 30 sec. 2 sets
Section 3: Running Exercises – 2 minutes
13) RUNNING ACROSS THE PITCH
Run across the pitch, from one side to the other, at 75-80% maximum pace. 2 sets
14) RUNNING BOUNDING
Run with high bounding steps with a high knee lift, landing gently on the ball of your foot. Use an exaggerated arm swing for each step (opposite arm and leg). Try not to let your leading leg cross the midline of your body or let your knees buckle inwards. Repeat the exercise until you reach the other side of the pitch, then jog back to recover. 2 sets.
15) RUNNING PLANTS AND CUT
Jog 4-5 steps, then plant on the outside leg and cut to change direction. Accelerate and sprint 5-7 steps at high speed (80-90% maximum pace) before you decelerate and do a new plant & cut. Do not let your knee buckle inwards. Repeat the exercise until you reach the other side, then jog back. 2 sets.
Get in the game
That’s it! Give it a try and see how the FIFA 11+ warm-up program can help you improve your performances and reduce your risk of injuries.
If you’d like more information about achieving a higher level of function as an athlete, check out our Locations page to find a Lifemark clinic near you, including Lifemark Sports Medicine clinics that focus on sports and provide assessments and treatments that are comprehensive, multi-faceted and centered around your needs as an athlete.