Proper warm-up for referees

A proper warm-up for referees is needed for both training sessions in games. It will improve your performance and reduces your risk of injury. 

The blog post is based on lessons I followed as a referee and notes I took. 

Warm-up for referees.

Physical effects of a warm-up

The physical effects of a proper warm-up for referees are:

  • Less stiffness in muscles and joints
  • More activity in nerve system, which means a better coordination
  • Better circulation of blood, so more oxygen to your muscles and you’ll easier get rid of (too many) lactic acids 

Mental effects of a warm-up

When you do a good warm-up:

  • You’ll be better focused mentally (more tips to stay focused)
  • You can adapt to the field conditions and know what you need to deal with. Plus you can pick the right clothing and shoes).
  • You get used to the match circumstances, like the fans and the pitch

What the real warm-up looks like

Because the effects are important, I’ve written them out below. You need to know what the benefits are for you, but I get that you want concrete tips to do your warm-up properly. 

  • 5 minutes of jogging
  • 5 minutes of mobilisation exercises. Examples are: tripling, skipping, moving sideways, moving backwards, cariocas, zigzag shuffling.
  • 5 minutes of accelerations (10 to 50m)
  • 5 minutes of dynamic stretching or core exercises. At my referee association in The Hague we do two different exercises of the dynamic stretches:
    • standing in an angle of 90 degrees on the fence. Hold it with one hand and move your leg forward and backwards (leg pendulum or forward leg swing)
    • standing in front of a fence and move the leg from left to right. You’ll find more online for standing leg swing sideways.
  • Examples of core exercises: stepping out and moving your knee out/in, jump forward or backward and land on one leg, lean on one leg and bend the knee. Check out core and stability exercises you can do at home.
  • 5 minutes of sprints
    • You can do a few sprints of 10, 20 or 30 metres. When you walk back, you get some rest as well.

Below you’ll see me check out the warm-up of the refereeing team at the TD Place in Ottawa.

Credits plus KNVB newsletter worth checking

The blog post is based on lessons I followed as a referee and notes I took. One part of these lessons were videos by pro referees fitness coach Hilco de Boer. KNVB has also a monthly newsletter with tips and fitness exercises. Subscribe via the KNVB website and pick KNVB Assist Scheidsrechters (the Dutch word for referees).

Training session at the Hague’s Referee Association

A training session at your own referee assocition, that’s awesome. And I don’t get one per week, but two. What does a training at the Hagues Referee Association (HSV in Dutch) look like? Check out our 1 hour session in the blog post below.


We started off with warm-up laps around our pitch for 8 minutes, followed by a dynamic warming-up. What we did is jog for 10 metres then an excercise, like lifting the knees or walking side-ways.

Check out this story on how to do a proper warm-up.

3x a Steigerung of 50m

After doing a proper warming-up we did a Steigerung. It’s a German word we use for it, but I don’t know a proper translation. Over a length of 50 metres, there are cones every 10 metres. What you’ll notices is that the speed goes up at every cone. Between the fourth and fifth cone you’ve reached your maximum speed. Make sure there is room to slow down. Walk back to the start and totally do this exercise three times.

Exercise 1 

Our training field is about 60 metres long. We use it to the max. 

In the following exercises you’ll vary your speed constantly. For one series, you’ll follow all steps five times. After one serie, you’ll have two minutes of rest. Then do the second serie of five laps.

example of referee fitness training

Exercise 2

In exercises 2 we use the diagonals of the pitch. The diagonal is about 70 metres. 

  • We jog up to the kick-off mark for about 35m. 
  • Then we sprint to the corner of the pitch. 
  • We walk for 15m on the short side, followed by 15m of jogging. 
  • Then follows a long 70m sprint to the other corner. 
  • Back to start with a 30m walk.

Repeat for five times.

Second example of training session

Exercise 3

The third and last exercise is what we call the pyramid. You have different variations. We have 8 cones over the length of 60 metres. 

  • Jog up to cone 1 and back. 
  • Then jog up to cone 8 and back.
  • Jog up to cone 2 and back.
  • Then jog up to cone 8 and back. 
  • And so on, until you’ve had all of them.

Tip: do a cooling down after the training sessions.

How many km’s did we train?

I made a photo of one of the referee watches, because it was quite an intense session. That gives you an impression of what the hour looks like in total distance. Check out below how many km’s we ran.

Polar watch