Optimizing Your Warm-Ups

May 24, 2019 | Evan Hauger, DPT, CSCS, SFG1

It is common practice for every training session to begin with a warm up. Whether its teams of athletes, group performance classes, fitness classes, personal training sessions, our physical therapy clients, or solo gym goers, it is all too common to observe people warm up with little to no focus or intention. As coaches, it can be easy for us to fall into that trap as well.

Everyone knows that some type of warm up happens before a training session. The common verbiage to explain why we warm up seems to be something along the lines of, “getting blood moving” prior to the training session. While it is vitally important to increase the blood flow to the tissues that will be stressed in the training session in order to reduce the risk for an injury and improve performance in the session, there are more things we need to consider in order to optimize “warm ups” for our clients, our athletes, our patients and ourselves.

At KIME Performance our athletes and clients go through a specific warm up routine prior to every training session with the following concepts in mind:

Assessment

A warm up that is consistent and repetitive at every training session is a great time for assessment to occur. Everyone is different on different days based on their prior training sessions and aches and pains. Going through similar movements prior to every session allows both the coach and athlete/client to monitor progress and figure out what restrictions may be necessary based on how they perform each part of the warm up routine. This can serve as a sort of real time movement screen through multiple planes of motion and through increasing thresholds of effort.

For instance if an athlete/client is unable to achieve full overhead mobility they should probably NOT perform an overhead press and proper adjustments can be made to their programming.

Another piece of an assessment, is the athlete/client’s mental state. During movement prep is a great time to engage with your athlete/client and gauge their current level of homeostasis. There are many other elements of their lives that will affect their overall well being (school, work, social, sleep etc) and stress in those other areas of life can negatively impact a training session.

Establish Joint Position

Another focal point of our warm ups is to establish joint position. In order to do this our warm ups focus on the joint positions and ranges of motion that will be required during the training session. To use the same example from earlier if we are programmed to be performing an exercise that will require full overhead mobility, our warm up may incorporate a downward dog to establish the scapular upward rotation and glenohumeral position necessary to get overhead.

Creating Movement Context

All of the movements contained in the warm up are a great opportunity to create context for the movements that will be used in the training session. We can cue similar movement patterns in the warm up under much lighter loads and in easier circumstances that we will be using as a part of the training session. This context can give the athlete/client a framework of the movements that will be used in the training session and give them an opportunity to neurologically prepare for the session. This can be especially useful if it is a movement they have not performed in a while or is brand new to them.

Preparing for Stress/ Force Production

Different training sessions will highlight different types of stresses on the body. We can create the warm up to prepare the body for the stress that will be demanded in the training session. For instance if this session will involve sprinting and speed work we know that requires force production that is primarily elastic. In order to prepare the body for that we can perform single leg hopping plyometrics, high knee running or A skips to name a few.

Focus/Intention

With our experience coaching athletes at all levels, we have made one fairly consistent observation when comparing high level professional athletes to high school or college level athletes. Athletes at the highest levels (USATF, MLB, NFL etc.) warm up with a distinct purpose and intense focus. They are able to optimize their warm ups and get the most out of their entire training sessions.

In summary, our time with our athletes/clients is limited. We may only have an hour and a lot that we want to accomplish. No matter the level of the athlete/client, a warm up that is focused and executed with intention can be a very powerful piece of your training programs.

Remember…

1. Assess
physical preparedness
homeostasis check
2. Establish joint position
– The athlete/client has the proper mobility for that days training session
3. Create movement context
-Instruct the athlete/client in the movement patterns that will be used
4. Prepare for stress/force production
5. Warm up with INTENT

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