By Richie Whall
What is the purpose of the warm-up? Why do we warm-up? How do we warm-up?
The majority of coaches and athletes will perform some form of warm-up prior to training or competition but how often do we actually take the time to think about:
:: What we need to do to warm-up appropriately
:: Why we do what we are currently doing to warm-up, or
:: Wow can the warm-up be conducted more effectively?
In my previous article I discussed a goals – principles – strategies – activities approach to developing your coaching philosophy and system. So, applying this system – what does this mean for warm-ups?
The two key warm-up goals are to:
1. Prepare the athletes specifically for the training/competition to follow, both mentally and physically.
2. Minimise the risk of injury
Following the principle of ‘starting with the end in mind’ (as adapted from such great minds as Stephen Covey and a certain Brian Grasso!) we can then explore in greater detail what is required to fulfil the goals above:
1. What specifically is it that we are preparing for? Does the warm-up change from competition to practice? Is the practice focus more physical or technical/tactical? What is required for my athletes to be successful in competition?
2. What provides the greatest risk of injury to the athletes? What movements do the athletes perform, in which planes/directions and at what speeds?
From my own personal experience many of us, when coaching athletes or in our own training, understand the goals and principles but then fail to apply appropriate strategies or activities that fully take into account what we are trying to achieve. For example, the same activities may be used regardless of whether the warm-up is prior to a speed & agility focussed session, which requires a great deal of physical preparation, or a tactical training session, where the limiting factors may be more related to the mental and/or social skills of the athletes.
There has been a significant, and much needed, shift towards ‘movement prep’ warm-ups over recent years with coaches generally now more aware of the advantages of movement based warm-ups compared to the traditional ‘run a few laps of the pitch/court then static stretch’ warm-up I often endured as an athlete! However, to take these warm-ups to the next level I believe we also need to consider the mental and social skills that need ‘warming-up’ prior to training or competition if we are to maximise our young athletes development. Asking athletes to warm-up in small groups, challenging them to think and listen, communicate and react is a vital yet commonly overlooked strategy in many warm-ups. Integrating these elements into your warm-ups will often require little change to your current routines. Have the athletes mirror or shadow each other, use an ‘auckland grid’ style set-up to increase interaction between payers or have the group respond to ‘simon says’ instructions as often used by Lee Taft. Keep it simple, keep it fun and keep it interactive, help prepare the athletes fully for the training/competition to follow and watch as they grow in confidence, social awareness and attitude.
Do you have any of your own views on warm-ups to share? Examples of good or bad warm-ups in practice? Strategies you have used to great effect or problems you have encountered but not yet found a solution? Post them below and myself along with the IYCA team look forward to your feedback and will help you find answers to any problems.