10 Stretching Exercises for Soccer Players

Soccer is a demanding sport that requires strength, agility, endurance, and flexibility. If you play soccer, warming up and cooling down with the right stretching exercises can have a variety of benefits no matter what your skill level.

Why Stretching Is Important for Soccer

Stretching is an extremely crucial aspect of any athletic activity. A warm-up that includes dynamic stretching allows the muscles to warm up and get prepared for the physical activity that they are about to perform. Static stretching routines are best done at the end of the workout or competition and allow the muscles to move through the full range of motion when they are warm and relaxed.

Doing the right stretching moves at the right time can greatly help to reduce the risk of sustaining many of the most common soccer injuries (including pulls, tears, and even cramping) while helping athletes maintain a full range of motion around the joints they use most. Proper stretching can also help speed recovery after exercise.

Learning how to stretch correctly is fairly straight-forward, but many athletes have never taken the time to learn the basics of a quality static stretching program. These basics include doing a variety of balanced stretches, moving slowly through the full range of motion, and holding the stretch for about 15 to 30 seconds. It's important to release slowly as well.

When Soccer Players Should Stretch

When to stretch has been the topic of debate for some time, but the basic recommendation is to perform static stretching after exercise. It's also recommended that athletes perform a warm-up that includes some light activity, such as jogging, jumping jacks, jump rope, and a dynamic stretching routine for 5 to 10 minutes before beginning a more intense athletic activity.

Soccer Stretches

  • Hip flexors and psoas stretch
  • Standing quad stretch
  • Standing calf stretch
  • Lying piriformis stretch
  • Seated groin and inner thigh stretch
  • Hip and lower back stretch
  • Iliotibial band stretch
  • Seated hamstring stretch
  • Achilles tendon heel stretch
  • Simple shoulder stretch
1

Hip Flexors and Psoas Stretch

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Watch Now: The Best Way to Stretch Your Hip Flexor and Psoas

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that bring the legs up toward the trunk and help generate a powerful soccer kick. They play a prominent role in soccer and other field sports ​and must be adequately stretched.

  1. Stand with your feet in a split stance, right foot forward, and left foot straight behind you.
  2. Bend your right knee to an approximately 90-degree angle with your hands resting on your front knee. You should relax your shoulders, hips facing forward and level.
  3. Press down using your hands while pressing the hips forward to feel a stretch in the left front hip, groin, and thigh.
  4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
2

Standing Quad Stretch

Standing Quad Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The quadriceps (quads) make up a group of muscles along the front of the thigh. These muscles are the powerful muscles used in sprinting and kicking and they are often prone to fatigue and severe cramping. The standing quad stretch is a simple stretch you can do virtually anywhere while standing.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding onto something stationary for support if necessary.
  2. Bend your right knee, bringing your heel toward your bum.
  3. Use your right hand to grab ahold of your ankle.
  4. Stand straight with your hips level and your core engaged. Keep your knee pointing downward while you feel a stretch on the top of your quadriceps.
  5. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. Release and repeat on the left leg.
3

Standing Calf Stretch

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Watch Now: How to Do a Standing Calf Stretch

The calf, or gastrocnemius, muscle runs along the back of your lower leg and is in constant use while running up and down the soccer field. Muscles in the calves can become easily fatigued and pull or tear in unfortunate situations. Because of this, stretching your calves before any athletic activity is extremely important.

  1. Stand about a foot from a wall, facing toward it.
  2. Extend your right leg behind you with both feet flat on the floor and a straight right knee.
  3. Lean toward the wall to feel a stretch in the calf muscle of your extended right leg. Place your hands on the wall for additional support.
  4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the left leg.
4

Lying Piriformis Stretch

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Watch Now: How To Do The Lying Piriformis Stretch

There are many different ways to stretch the piriformis muscle that lies deep beneath the gluteus (butt) muscles. This exercise is easy to do and is a quick way to relax and open the hips and target the piriformis muscle. Don't forget to stretch both sides.

  1. Laying with your back on the floor, cross your right leg over the left, placing your right ankle on the left knee.
  2. Lift your left foot off the floor and toward you in a slow and controlled motion.
  3. Gently push on the inside of your right knee with your hands.
  4. Hold 20 to 30 seconds
  5. Repeat on the other side.
5

Seated Groin and Inner Thigh Stretch

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This simple stretch, sometimes called the butterfly stretch, is a great stretch for soccer players. It works to stretch several muscles in the thigh and groin area.

  1. Sit on the floor on your bottom with your legs in front of you.
  2. Grasp your right foot and gently pull it towards your groin so that the sole of your foot faces your left thigh.
  3. Bend your left knee to bring your left foot toward your groin with the sole connecting with the sole of your right foot.
  4. Grasp your feet with your hands, resting your elbows on your knees.
  5. With a straight back, let your knees fall towards the floor, pressing gently on your inner thighs with your elbows.
  6. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  7. Release and repeat.
6

Hip and Lower Back Stretch

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Watch Now: The Best Hip and Lower Back Stretch

This simple stretch opens the hips as it stretches the hips, groin, and lower back muscles. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and switch sides, and repeat.

  • Stand in a forward lunge position, your right leg forward. Lower your left knee to the floor.
  • Rest your right elbow on the inside of your right knee and press the elbow gently into your knee, rotating your torso toward the left.
  • Extend your left arm behind to increase the stretch in your lower back and right groin.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Release and repeat on the other side.
7

Iliotibial (IT) Band Stretch

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Watch Now: How to Do a Standing IT Band Stretch

The iliotibial (IT) band is a tough group of fibers that run along the outside of the thigh that stabilizes the joints. This area may become irritated from overuse or tightness, so it's crucial to stretch it out before strenuous activity. The standing IT band stretch is a quick way to target the IT band.

  1. Stand tall.
  2. Cross your right leg behind your left leg.
  3. Lean toward the left to feel a stretch across the iliotibial band.
  4. Reach your arm overhead and bend your left knee slightly for a deeper stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. Uncross your legs and come back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat on the other side.
8

Seated Hamstring Stretch

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Watch Now: The Best Way to Do a Seated Hamstring Stretch

The hamstrings need to be strong but not tight in order to endure the demands of running and kicking and multiple quick starts and stops during a soccer game. This simple hamstring stretch can help maintain length in the hamstrings.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you.
  2. Reach forward with your arms while bending at the waist keeping your knees straight (with a soft bend).
  3. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Raise back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.
9

Achilles Tendon - Heel Stretch

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Watch Now: How to Stretch Your Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon may be prone to injury if tight, weak, or fatigued. Use this stretch to keep it loose. The key to doing this stretch correctly is to bend the knee of the forward foot while keeping your heel on the ground. You'll feel this stretch in the Achilles tendon, just above the heel.

  1. Face the wall at arm's length, standing with your feet parallel.
  2. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height, stepping your left foot behind you.
  3. Bend both of your knees and push the wall away to feel a stretch in your left Achilles.
  4. Deepen by sitting your hips lower.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. Switch sides and repeat.
10

Simple Shoulder Stretch

Simple Shoulder Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This basic shoulder stretch can help open the chest and loosen tight shoulders before playing soccer.

  1. Stand tall and reach your right arm up, bending the elbow so your right hand falls behind your head onto your right shoulder blade.
  2. Use your left hand to reach over and grasp your right elbow.
  3. Apply gentle pressure to push your right arm down further onto your shoulder blade.
  4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Release and repeat on the other side.

A Word From Verywell

Properly warming up and stretching before or after soccer practices and games can help you become mentally and physically prepared for the work ahead. Soccer is a physically demanding sport with many twists, turns, changes of direction, sudden sprints, stops, and kicking motions. Ensuring your muscles, joints, and tendons are warmed up and ready to work can help boost performance and prevent injury.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Qamar MM, Javed MS, Dogar MZ, Basharat A. Non-pharmacological interventions to combat exercise-induced muscle damage, a little natural tax on work out. J Pak Med Assoc. 2018;68(11):1686-1690.

  3. Arnold MJ, Moody AL. Common running injuries: evaluation and management. Am Fam Physician. 2018;97(8):510-516.

  4. Cristi-sánchez I, Danes-daetz C, Neira A, Ferrada W, Yáñez díaz R, Silvestre aguirre R. Patellar and achilles tendon stiffness in elite soccer players assessed using myotonometric measurements. Sports Health. 2019;11(2):157-162. doi:10.1177/1941738118820517

By Elizabeth Quinn
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.