Much like you would study prior to a final exam or review your information before giving a big presentation, there are appropriate steps that must be taken before the start of any form of physical activity.
Whether it is a team practice, playoff game, off-season training camp or just a pick-up game with your buddies, going through a proper warm-up routine is only going to set you up for success.
The primary goal of a warm-up is to prepare the body to move and perform at optimal levels, not stress the body to a state of fatigue. The visual physiological adaptations caused by a warm-up are simple. You should see an increase in body temperature (sweat beads beginning to form), an increase in oxygen intake (increased breathing rate), and increased blood flow to muscle tissues caused by an elevated heart rate (not always visual due to clothing or equipment).
A proper warm-up will also affect the mental status of an athlete, releasing the appropriate chemicals and hormones to produce optimal levels of cognitive arousal.
It is imperative that muscles and joints are moved through their complete range of motion, not just through movement patters that are applicable to a specific sport or action. These physiological properties can be obtained through a number of simple drills and movement patterns.
Active Drills examples: light jog, jumping jacks
The goal of these movements is to increase core temperature, stretch and flex the muscles through their complete range of motion, and create an elastic response within the muscle tissue.
Stationary Drills examples: leg swings, arm circles
These drills will stretch and flex the muscles while in a stationary (standing still), not static (stretch and hold) position. These drills will isolate specific muscles or muscle groups more than Active Drills.
Innervation Drills examples: ankle hops, high knees, butt kicks
The primary focus of these movements is to activate the explosive system within the muscles, preparing them to exert maximal force when necessary. This is achieved through short, quick, and explosive movements.
Taking an athlete through a gradual progression of these types of exercises will aid in their preparation for optimal performance.
Any movement involved in a warm-up does not need to be completely sport specific. Remember, you are preparing the body to work at a higher-than-normal load, not training a specific movement or skill.
Follow these simple keys to a proper warm-up when working with your athletes. This is an essential part of the goal to maximize performance and decrease the potential risk of injury.