Strength and power athletes require high degrees of motor control, force output, and neuromuscular activity in order to elicit maximal performance in training and competition. The role of a warm-up in one’s training program should address key concepts of human physiology and performance to build a stronger, faster, healthier athlete and/or client.
In this article, we will discuss the primary benefits of a thorough warm-up that will prepare athletes for optimal performance.
Why Warm Up
Although warm-up philosophies differ across the board, the fundamental benefits of a sound warm-up regimen are:
- Increased Body and Muscle Temperature: Enhanced body and muscle temperature will improve circulation and improve elasticity in muscles. Additionally, increased muscle temperature during warm-ups of 15-20 minutes may decrease muscle soreness without sacrificing force output.
- Improved Blood Flow: Vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) allows for improved blood flow to active muscle tissue delivering oxygen-rich blood and removing performance hindering CO2 and byproducts from active tissues during exercise.
- Increased Blood Temperature: Increased blood temperature weakens the binding between hemoglobin (oxygen carrying molecule) and oxygen, allowing for greater delivery of oxygen to active tissues.
- Potential Improved Range of Motion: Enhanced circulation and body temperature allows for a better environment to train the full range of motion.
- Enhanced Neuromuscular Activity: Increase neural drive during training allows improved motor control and muscle contractions.
- Enhanced Mental Preparation: Preparing athletes/clients for the training session will allow them to become more focused and aware of their body.
When developing a warm-up, I tend to start broad, and work my way to the most specific aspects needed for that training session. Below are the main components to a thorough warm-up, in order from broad to specific.
Dynamic Warm Up
Dynamic warm-ups facilitate whole-body movements to increase blood flow, body temperature, and enhance joint and connective tissue range of motion. Generally, I will start with lower intensity movements like knee hugs, lunges, or walkouts and build into more ballistic movements, such as; high knees, skips, leg swings, and jumps. The main emphasis should be in fluid movement through an athlete’s best ROM to increase body temperature, elevate the heart rate, and kick-start the warm-up process.
Plyometric training has been shown to increase muscular power and explosiveness through adaptations to the stretch-shortening cycle. The ability to contract the muscles faster allows for greater potentials for improved athletic performance, making plyometric training a regular part of any sound warm-up regimen. Jumps, throws, and single leg variations can be included in any capacity to build more explosive and athletic athletes/clients.
Depending on the movements of that training session and an athlete’s limitations/tendencies, I will program corrective and/or preventative exercise within the warm-up to address any imbalances that could result in injury and/or hinder performance. Often, these will be paired with plyometric drills to be more time efficient without sacrificing the effectiveness of a warm up.
At this point in the warm-up, athletes are adequately ready to go. When determining what skill-specific movements to include in the latter part of a warm-up, I often look at the movements that are programmed for that specific day. On squatting days, for example, I may have athletes perform monster walks, hip raise, or scapular retraction exercises to transition them to get under the bar. On snatching days, I may have athletes perform the below snatch warm-up routine. Coaches should employ various skill tasks to heighten the muscular and mental activity of their athletes.
Time To Program Better
All the components above are great modalities to use when programming for athletes and clients. Depending on the abilities and/or limitations or your demographic, you will be able to refine your process so that you can include all the meaningful components yet scale and/or them to a level that will be beneficial to your population.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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