Yoga is becoming an increasingly popular form of exercise, and for a good reason. Yoga offers a variety of benefits for athletes, including increased strength, improved flexibility, and better overall performance. Soccer players, in particular, can benefit from yoga, as the practice can help improve their speed, agility, and stamina. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of yoga for soccer players and how you can start incorporating yoga into your training routine.
7 Yoga Poses to Prevent Injury and Promote Recovery for Soccer Players
Downward Facing Dog
Half Front Splits Pose
Seated Spinal Twist
Standing Forward Bend
Lying Spinal Twist
Yoga for Soccer Players - Why it's Important
Yoga is a great way for soccer players to improve their overall performance. Yoga can help increase strength, flexibility, and agility, which are important for high performance on the pitch. In addition, yoga can help improve breathing and focus, both being essential for athletes in high-stress competition.
While rest is good from the morning's training, active recovery is often better. Yoga is a form of exercise that keeps your heart rate relatively low. Movement while keeping the heart rate low brings rich oxygenated blood to your tired muscles and promotes faster recovery.
In a study on 25 high-performance swimmers, those who participated in active recovery following an intense training session showed faster dissipation of blood lactate. This faster dissipation of lactic acid may have been a key factor in the improved physical performance of swimmers.
There are many athletes in professional sports known to begin a recovery workout following a match or game. Whether simple stretching, yoga, cycling, swimming or using the elliptical.
Ryan Giggs, one of the most successful footballers in the English Premier League and notably, one of the oldest with a playing career that went into his 40's, is quoted saying, "Yoga helped me carry on playing until I was 40."
Flexibility and Mobility
Many soccer players neglect to focus on flexibility and mobility, which can lead to injuries. In addition to running, soccer is a sport that requires a lot of twisting and turning. Thus, players must have flexibility and mobility to move easily and prevent injuries.
You need to learn to walk before you can run. Yoga is a great way to get accustomed to various twists or turns, in a slow and controlled way that does not overstress the muscles or joints.
Speed and Agility
While yoga will not make you as fast as Usain Bolt, it can help improve your speed and agility. Yoga helps to increase strength and range of motion in your muscles. While the mechanics of running are beyond the scope of this article, a longer stride is typically more beneficial when running.
Yoga can help increase your range of motion in all muscle groups, thus increasing the potential for greater speed and agility gains.
Strength and Power
Athletes need to be strong to endure the physical demands of their sport. Yoga is a great way to increase overall strength, particularly in the core and hips. These areas are crucial for soccer players who must stay agile and explosive on the field.
While you will build strength and power throughout your weight lifting and training sessions, yoga may help you identify areas that need improvement. Squats and other major compound lifts are great for building a base of strength. However, it would be silly to assume that all movements on the field only require your body to move on a single lateral or vertical plane.
Yoga may expose weaknesses that will help you become a more well-rounded athlete and less prone to injury.
Yoga practice can help provide a calm focus away from the field. This stillness may be especially beneficial for young athletes under pressure to perform. A yoga practice can help you learn how to focus and control your mind, which can carry over into competition.
Many athletes, such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, had incorporated yoga into their training routines to improve their mental clarity and focus. Mindfulness training was one of Michael Jordan's key practices incorporated into his training regimen, which helped further advance his playing career.
What is a good yoga workout for soccer players?
For athletes, there is a balance between strength training, skill development, and recovery. Soccer players are not any different. A yoga workout for soccer players should incorporate a balance of all three.
While strength training and skill development drills will vary in complexity from player to player, yoga is flexible; no pun intended. It can be scaled up or down to meet the needs of any athlete, regardless of age or skill level
A yoga workout for soccer players does not need to be long. Fifteen to twenty minutes in the evening or following a strength or training session is plenty of time to begin improving overall performance.
Most Common Injuries for Soccer Players
Soccer players are susceptible to a variety of injuries, but the most common are overuse injuries. These injuries occur when the same muscles or joints are used repeatedly and without enough time for rest and healing. Some of the most common overuse injuries include:
- Shin splints – Pain in the front of the lower leg that is caused by inflammation of the muscles and tendons
- Knee pain – Can be caused by several issues, such as Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), iliotibial band friction syndrome, or Baker’s cyst
- Achilles tendonitis – Inflammation of the Achilles tendon, located in the back of the ankle. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury caused by several factors, such as repetitive use of the Achilles tendon, improper warm-up or stretching before exercise, sudden changes in intensity or duration, or wearing inappropriate footwear.
Sprains and Strains
Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can all be strained or torn when subjected to too much stress. This type of injury is common in contact sports like soccer. Some of the most common muscle strains and tears in soccer players include:
- Ankle sprain – A sprain that occurs when the ankle twists inward, stretching and tearing the ligaments that hold the ankle bones together
- Hamstring strain – A tear or stretching of the hamstring muscles, which are located in the back of the thigh
- Groin strain - A muscle strain that happens when the muscles in your groin are overstretched or torn.
- Back strain – A strain or tear in the muscles, ligaments, or discs in your back
Key Areas Yoga Helps to Improve
Hip Flexors and Psoas
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that allow you to lift your leg while running or kicking. The psoas is a lower back muscle that helps stabilize the spine and pelvis.
When these muscles are tight, they can limit your range of motion and put a lot of stress on the lower back. Yoga poses stretching the hip flexors and psoas can help improve flexibility and relieve tension in these muscles.
The lower back pain you're experiencing may result from tight hips or a tight psoas that's pulling on the back muscles. A deep hip opening pose can aid in keeping these muscles flexible and preventing lingering pains.
Hamstrings and Quadriceps
The quadriceps are a group of four muscles located in the front of the thigh. The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located in the back of the thigh. These muscles work together to extend and flex the leg while running.
When these muscles are tight, they can cause pain in the knee, hip, or other areas. Your quadriceps and hamstrings are prone to tightness if not properly stretched, leading to strains, or in severe cases, tears. Yoga poses like Downward Facing Dog and Reclining Hero can help to improve flexibility in the hamstrings and quads respectively, and reduce the risk of injury.
Chest and Shoulders
The chest and shoulders are two areas that tend to be tight in most athletes. While field players tend to not rely on upper body strength as much as speed and agility in the lower body, neglecting your chest, shoulders, lats, etc. will only hinder your overall athletic performance.
Tightness in these areas can limit your range of motion and make it difficult to breathe deeply. Additionally, having flexibility will only aid in increasing your speed and agility as your upper body is involved in helping to maintain balance and provide power when forward.
Knees and Ankles
Even on turf, your joints and bones are susceptible to high impact and uneven surfaces. Similar to how trail runners may encounter unexpected rocks or routes on their run, another player's foot, an unexpected sprinkler head, or the ball appearing in a different spot than where you expected it are regular occurrences in the game.
Your ankles and knees get twisted and turned in multiple directions, natural and unnatural. Players without the flexibility to adapt to these changing directions will get injured.
While different types of resistance training may hit your stabilizing muscles, this will only strengthen them, not stretch them. Think of yoga as providing flexibility to these muscles with resistance training providing power.
Overall Cardiovascular System
When you're working on your yoga poses, you're increasing flexibility, strength, and endurance. Yoga is a total body workout that engages every muscle in the body.
When you practice yoga, your heart rate is elevated and you get an overall cardiovascular workout. This type of workout is beneficial for all athletes as it helps to improve oxygen uptake and delivery to the muscles, leading to increased performance and reduced fatigue.
The best part about yoga? You don't need any equipment or special clothes- just a yoga mat and some comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely. So what are you waiting for? Start reaping the benefits of yoga today!