Drill of the Week: The Importance of Warming Up
We've given you a drill every week since mid-September, but it's time to take a step back and reconsider what you should be doing while you're warming up. It may seem strange, but warming up is crucial before any physical activity, no matter what sport you might be participating in.
From baseball to basketball and everything in between, we cannot stress the importance of warming up correctly. To many, a warm up simply means jogging for a few seconds, but that can be extremely dangerous to young athletes and their bodies. Think of your body like a new rubber band -- when you stretch it out, you can't go from 0 to 100 without gradually working up to it.
When you properly warm up, it loosens up your muscles and joints, thus giving them a larger range of motion during actual strenuous activity. Without lubricated muscles, you'll not only lose the ability to make explosive movements, but you're far more likely to get hurt in the process.
While each sport's routine will differ greatly -- do not skip warming up! Your healthy body will thank us later! We're highlighting bits and pieces from our general version of the warm up routine, but you can also find them in full for baseball and soccer at these respective links.
Simply put, your brain sends messages to the muscles in order to make them move. The central nervous system must be awake to clearly signal to the muscles and efficiently recruit as much muscle fiber as needed to perform a specific movement. If the brain does not send the signal quickly, the body can’t perform that movement with the required speed, which increases the athlete’s risk of injury.
Preparing the body for specific movements by using exercises that activate the same muscles during the warm-up is essential. This method ensures the proper muscle groups are ready to move in any way they are needed. Sprinting in-game require the use of the glutes, hamstrings, hip muscles, and quadriceps, so, of course, it makes sense to focus on these muscles while warming up.
From the soccer guide:
Laps! Generally, try to have teams jogging at a decent pace for a few minutes. It won't do any good to run for just 30 seconds, you've got to prepare your lungs for the struggles of an incoming 90 minute game. A good rule of thumb is to finish just after you've broken a sweat -- then your body is good and warm for whatever comes next.
Set up a cone 10-12 yards away from the players and have them do the following activities to the cone and back:
- Side shuffle with arm crosses
- Inch worms
- High knees + butt kicks
- Walking lunge + alternating side lunge
- High kicks
And, finally, some important details for post-game stretching! Yes, that's right! You've got to properly stretch after sports too! Cooling down is so crucial because you're easing your body into its resting state without suddenly stopping. Check out our article on stretching after a workout here:
A good, deep stretch after exercising - even if it's just a light workout - will help reduce soreness, which will inspire you to get back in the gym even quicker. Try a smaller combination of both static and dynamic stretches as well -- some of our personal favorites include: the butterfly, leg + butt kicks, and the quadriceps stretch! After running, you’re often so burnt out from giving 100% on the field or track that you’d like nothing more than to crash on your couch with a pint of ice cream, but that can be harmful.
Like we said before -- sports can largely differ in the skills, abilities, and body parts used, but the one constant that always remain is warming up. If you treat your body right, you'll be so much better off in the long run. So, this week, our only assignment is to start warming up effectively and enthusiastically! It may not teach you new skills, but it will greatly improve the ones you already have -- good luck!