One thing that often time gets overlooked is the warmup. The warmup for my athletes is too important to brush over. Time is a limiting factor in most of our day at the NCAA level so we use our warmup needs to achieve 4 things in each session:
1. Movement Skills – We utilize a variety of movements throughout the warmup as a means to increasing body temperature but even more importantly as a means of creating some kinesthetic awareness. We want athletes to understand where their body is in space and recognize what is going on as they move. This becomes even more important the younger the athlete. Teaching a variety of skips, shuffles, bounds, jogs, all go towards improving movement skills. We can then combine various arm swings, circles, etc. to add some complexity to the movement. Coach Cal Dietz and his contributors over at www.XLAthlete.com have put together one of the best resources on general body movement and especially for young athletes.
2. Mobility – All warm ups should be geared towards increasing the movement around the joints. The goal of any warmup should be to prepare the joints for loading and movement. We can take time throughout our warmup to work on areas where more motion is necessary instead of perhaps using extra time throughout the training session. Creating mobility throughout the hips and t-spine for example are the foundations of my warm ups.
3. Activation – Our lifestyles, genetics, imbalances all lead to inhibited muscle groups that need specific stimulation. The most common of these tends to be the glutes in many athletes. As I’ve written about before on this blog, in Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes the glutes are just one of many muscles that can shut down. Doing activation work in a warmup on a daily basis can go a long way in brining those areas around. Varieties of hip raises, alternating hip raises, single leg stance work, can all be included in warm ups to turn on the glutes prior to training. The same goes for other inhibited areas as in the lower trap, psoas, or maybe the rotator cuff.
4. Injury Prevention – Injuries come in plenty of shapes and sizes and we have to look multiple places when preventing injuries. We may have to look at the sport, the position, male vs female, etc. to determine the best route in injury prevention. Whatever the case many of these issues can be touched upon in the warmup as well. A thorough warmup including the previous three pieces in itself serves as great prevention already.
Looking at the four components above may seem like a tall task to perform all in one warmup but we achieve all of this in less than 15 minutes in every one of our warm ups. You may be asking how…. I like to pair our movement skills with #2 #3 and #4. We may perform skips or backwards jogs for a desired distance then drop down and perform mobility work on the hips and t-spine. As we progress through the warmup we move from mobility to more activation ie: hip raises, SL hip raises, etc. and then to injury prevention work which may include some form of rotator cuff, or maybe a strengthening movement for someone susceptible to an ACL injury.