Strength and conditioning coaches and trainers are involved in a constant search for top ways to improve sport performance, where it is adult or youth athletes. All things being alike, a bigger, faster, stronger, more conditioned athlete will rule best on the playing court or field.
While there is constant discussion over techniques for boosting sport specific speed, power, and strength, we tend to overlook the importance of a comprehensive warm-up, and the role it plays in enhancing performance in each and every workout, practice, or game.
This leads to the obvious question: what is the best way is to prepare an athlete for performance? The best use of a warm-up is not holding a static stretch (20 seconds or longer); it is dynamic warm-up exercises. There are many physiological and mental benefits with dynamic warm-ups including:
- It involves continuous movement, it maintains warmth in your body and muscles.
- It prepares the muscles and joints in a more sport specific manner than static stretching
- It enhances coordination and motor ability as well as revving up the nervous system – benefits which are particularly important for younger athletes who are still ‘learning their bodies’
- Finally, and possibly most importantly, it prepares the mind for the workout ahead. Proper mental preparation for any sport is vital; the dynamic warm-up forces athletes to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
Examples of a Dynamic Warm-Ups:
In general, dynamic warm-ups, should take between 10-15 minutes and athletes should begin to break a sweat. With most of the warm-ups below, perform 8-10 reps both legs or over a set distance (example: 15 yards)
- Light Jog: Get blood flowing, heart rate increased
- High Knees: Form not speed, get knees up as high as possible
- Butt Kicks: Staying on the toes and quick feet
- Lateral Shuffle: Maintaining a low athletic stance with chest up
- Carioca: As much hip rotation as possible, knee drive on back leg
- Ankle Pops: Bounce off both toes while keeping the knees very slightly bent
- Frankenstein March: Legs kick as high as possible trying to touch hand
- Pointers: Walking forward touching pointed toe
- Quad Walk: Walking forward pull left ankle to butt and touch opposite toe
- Over the Fence: Face one direction and drive knee up while bringing the other knee up
- Prisoner Lunge: Lunge forward with hands behind head
- Leg Hugs: Bring knee up and towards the center of the body, switching leg