Louis Smith's stretching school

Great Britain’s three-time Olympic gymnastic medallist takes FFT through some of his pre-event stretches – to help you gain an edge on the pitch

Hamstring stretch
This classic exercise works the nerves and muscles of the hamstring, which will help you avoid injury when sprinting. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and your toes pointed up. Then stretch forward and move your hand to touch the toes on one foot. Hold this position for 20 seconds, with 10 reps for each leg.

More after the break

The 90-degree angle stretch
This one strengthens the inner groin and the thigh, which is vital for running strength and power around the field. Sit on the floor and stretch your leg out to 90 degrees. Lean and stretch your body forward to try and touch your toes on one leg. Hold this position for around 30 seconds, with eight reps on each leg.

The V-fit
Good core strength is vital for a footballer to help hold the ball and shrug off the opposition, and this is a good exercise to work this area as it strengthens the lower back and abdominals. Lay on your back and push your arms and legs up in a V-shape so they meet. It is vital to keep your back flat at all times. Do this 10-15 times until fatigued.

Calf stretch
Calf muscles come under a lot of strain in a football match when sprinting, so it is important they are kept strong and supple. Sit on the floor, point a slightly bent raised leg out in front and grab the top of the toes with your hand to stretch the calf. Do 10 reps on each leg, holding each rep for 10 seconds.

The Ironing Board
This is a good one for all-around conditioning to help strengthen the hips and torso, as well as providing a more stable base for arms and leg movements. First, stand on all fours to look like an ironing board. Then raise your left arm and hold it straight out in front before slowly raising your right leg off the floor so it is horizontal. Hold the position for five seconds, then switch arms and legs. Do this five times each.

How to integrate it into your warm-up

Mark Jarvis, West Brom’s strength and conditioning coach, on what these stretches will bring to your game


“Like football, gymnastics is full of explosive movements so the stretches Louis uses to mobilise his joints can easily be transferred across the two sports.


Warming up and stretching is key to unlocking your athletic potential. The stretches here are inactive, so I would recommend fitting them into part of a pre-match routine, rather than solely depending on them to ready your body.


Start your warm up with some light jogging and dynamic exercises to put your muscles through a full range of movement. Do this for 15 minutes.


Then go through Louis’ routine for 10 minutes before the team talk. If you’ve been sitting down all day you should have a few sprints before kick-off and spend a bit more time stretching.


You could also use these stretches as part of a warm down, where the focus should shift towards relaxing the body and opening out your muscles.”


Mark is founder of MMJ Training – @MMJTraining or mmjtraining.co.uk

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