It's important to prepare correctly before a football match and one of the most vital times to do that is the night before. So we've outlined below, the best stretches you can do the night before a football match to prepare.
Footballers will know that the main muscle groups used during a game are those of the legs and glutes. Freeing up these muscles prior to match day will allow you to be more mobile and get around the pitch more freely, whilst limiting the risk of injury.
During the warm up, directly before a game, you should concentrate on activating important muscles and get blood flowing to them along with the ligaments at your joints. However, before that you might benefit from improving your range of movement by performing static stretches.
As a strength and conditioning coach with experience in the premier league, championship and non-league football, these are the stretches I've found to be most effective in preparing a player for a game, the night before.
Stretches to do the night before a football match
Hip Flexor Stretch
To perform the hip flexor stretch, start in a lunge position with one foot forward and the other extended back. Lower your hips toward the ground while keeping your back straight. You should feel a gentle stretch in the front of your hip on the extended leg. Hold the stretch for about 45-60 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat the process a few times to ensure both hip flexors are adequately stretched.
Begin in a tabletop position, then bring one knee forward toward the wrist on the same side, extending the other leg straight back. Your front shin should be close to parallel with the mat. Lower your body toward the ground, feeling a deep stretch in the outer hip of the bent leg. Hold for 60-90 seconds, then switch to the other leg. This stretch is excellent for opening up the hips and releasing tension.
Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Inhale as you arch your back, dropping your belly toward the ground and lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling (the "Camel" position). Exhale as you round your back, tucking your chin to your chest and drawing your belly button toward your spine (the "Cat" position). Repeat this motion for 10-15 repetitions. The Cat/Camel exercise is a dynamic stretch that promotes flexibility and mobility in the spine.
Sit on the floor with one leg extended straight and the other leg bent so the sole of the foot is against the inner thigh of the extended leg. Reach forward toward your toes, keeping your back straight. You should feel a stretch along the back of your extended leg. Hold for 45-60 seconds and then switch legs. This stretch helps improve flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back.
Single Leg Standing Quad Stretch
Stand on one leg and bring the other heel toward your buttocks, grabbing your ankle with the hand on the same side. Keep your knees close together and your standing leg slightly bent. Hold the stretch for 45-60 seconds, feeling the stretch in the front of your thigh. Switch legs and repeat. This stretch targets the quadriceps and helps improve balance.
Frog Adductor Stretch
Begin in a hands-and-knees position with your knees spread wide apart and your toes turned outward. Slowly shift your hips back towards your heels while keeping your chest up, allowing your inner thighs to stretch. Hold the position for 40-60 seconds, feeling the stretch in your groin and inner thighs. This stretch is beneficial for opening up the hips and improving flexibility in the adductor muscles.
Relaxation before a game
The night before a football match is not only about physical preparation but also crucial for mental readiness. Mental preparation is key to maintaining focus, reducing anxiety, and optimizing performance on the field. Integrating yoga-inspired stretches into your pre-game routine can be an excellent way to achieve both physical and mental relaxation. Begin with the Child's Pose, a restful position that involves sitting back on your heels with arms stretched out in front, promoting a sense of calmness and introspection. Transition into the Downward Dog, a full-body stretch that not only increases flexibility but also encourages mindfulness as you align your breath with movement. Deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, can further enhance relaxation by calming the nervous system and promoting a sense of tranquility. Inhale deeply through the nose, allowing your abdomen to expand, and exhale slowly through pursed lips. These yoga-inspired stretches, coupled with mindful breathing, create a holistic approach to relaxation, ensuring both your body and mind are in optimal condition for the game ahead.
Sleeping before a football match
The night before a football match, getting a good night's sleep before football is of paramount importance for players aiming to perform at their best on the pitch. Sleep is a critical component of the body's recovery process, allowing muscles to repair and regenerate. In the context of football, where physical endurance and quick reflexes are essential, adequate sleep becomes a performance-enhancing factor. A well-rested body is more resilient to injuries, and it helps in optimizing cognitive functions such as decision-making and concentration—crucial aspects in the dynamic and fast-paced environment of a football game. Additionally, sufficient sleep contributes to hormonal balance, aiding in the release of growth hormone and testosterone, which play roles in muscle development and overall athletic performance. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can lead to fatigue, decreased coordination, and diminished cognitive abilities
In conclusion, incorporating a well-rounded stretching routine the night before a football match is a strategic investment in both physical and mental readiness. The stretches boost blood flow, flexibility exercises target key muscle groups, and core stabilisation contributes to overall strength on the pitch. By addressing injury prevention through static stretches and integrating relaxation techniques inspired by yoga, players can not only enhance their physical capabilities but also foster mental resilience. The carefully timed and consistent application of these stretches ensures that players step onto the field with bodies primed for optimal performance and minds in a state of focus and calm. As an integral part of the pre-game routine, these stretches contribute to a holistic approach to preparation, setting the stage for success and enjoyment on the football pitch.