The Right Side Of The Heart Forces Blood To Flow Appropriate Warm-Up

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Appropriate Warm-Up

I’ve been a speed and performance specialist for over 13 years and I always seem to get some strange looks whenever I start training with my athletes. After witnessing some noticeably odd rotations and silly skipping patterns, one’s curiosity is immediately peaked. Inevitably, the question arises: “Why do you warm up in such a way?”

Since both coaches and athletes have always been looking for better ways to train properly, we felt that an obvious topic to address would be what to do “before” training even begins. A proper warm-up allows us to get the most out of the game or training itself. The warm-up method presented here is different from the traditional stationary stretching positions that have been known since high school PE classes.

Many do some sort of light jogging or exercise, followed by various static stretching positions, and then try to perform at a very high intensity level.

Sounds pretty familiar, right? And you might be thinking, “Yeah, I’m following you, so where’s the problem?”

Well, the problem is multifaceted. These types of “warm-ups” do not effectively address the other key components of a proper warm-up.

Since none of this is too wrong, we will examine and offer the true function of a suitable warm-up for strength sports. Training, practice or game situations require full speed, 100% effort so the warm-up should adequately prepare participants for full speed, 100% effort!

We need to implement the protocol in the most efficient and effective way possible. The most appropriate warm-up allows you to focus on what is most important – further developing the skills necessary to succeed in your sport (or position). Translation – spend your time doing what you need to spend your time doing! The goal would be a thorough warm-up in 15 minutes or less.

An effective warm-up should achieve the following goals:

1. Increase core temperature and lengthen muscles

2. Stimulates the nervous system and activates neuromuscular innervation

3. Educate the body with basic movement mechanics

Our warm-up protocol accomplishes so much that it’s hard for us to give an exact label. As is the current trend of many self-proclaimed performance gurus, it could quite accurately be described as “Dynamic Movement Calibration Activity Protocol-3” (or DyMCAP-cubed) or whatever sexy label you want to slap on it! It is essential that it covers a wide range of important categories. As we define each element, take a moment to carefully study your own warm-up procedure and make sure it meets each criteria.

Program

First goal:

Raise your core temperature by increasing your heart rate and lengthen your muscles using the body’s natural principle of reciprocal inhibition and reduce the chance of injury.

Discussion:

In order to lengthen (stretch) the muscle safely and effectively, it should be done in a warm environment. That doesn’t mean you have to be in Myrtle Beach in July to do this. What this means is that we must progressively increase the heart rate, promote healthy blood flow and circulation, and thereby raise the body temperature. This reflects the principle of “thawing” a frozen batch of ground beef before forming it into several nice sized hamburger patties. The warmer our muscles are, the more flexible they become. This is crucial because it allows for an acute increase in flexibility, which significantly reduces the potential for stretching muscles, tendons and joint trauma. The body is then better prepared to meet the progressive demands of the training that follows.

Another factor is something called reciprocal inhibition. This is a technical term that describes the coordinated action of muscles in relation to each other. As one muscle (agonist) contracts, the reciprocal or opposite muscle(s) (antagonist) automatically relax allowing for a more dramatic stretching effect.

Put into practice:

Incorporate dynamic walking, spinning, marching, bending, skipping and running to raise the core temperature and lengthen the musculature. While doing this, concentrate and try to contract the opposite muscle you want to stretch. For example, contract your quadriceps and keep your toes pointing up as you swing your leg straight out in front of you. If performed correctly, you will feel a great stretch in your hamstrings and calves.

Keep in mind that sports are multi-directional, multi-planar activities, so your warm-up routine should support these demands. Improvements in balance, coordination, and general athleticism are a beneficial byproduct of performing challenging movement patterns.

Second goal:

Excite the nervous system to “sound the alarm” and neuromuscular activation of the appropriate muscle groups.

Discussion:

Here, we traditionally do a disservice to our athletes. When we subject our athletes to fixed or static stretching positions, a “calming effect” of the nervous system occurs. This is exactly the opposite effect we want to cause. For this reason, one of the best times to do long slow static stretches is right before bed. Since we are not putting on our “pyjamas”, we would rather excite the nervous system to become more alert, ready and energized.

Imagine the lethargy of waking up late one morning and how it can take you an hour or so to “turn around”. Static stretching before activity usually has the same effect. In contrast, consider being woken up in the middle of the night by the sudden sound of a fire alarm! Instantly ready to run or fight for your life! The low-level dynamic movement patterns of skipping, jumping, and running are similar to sounding an alarm.

To address the concept of neuromuscular activation, the saying “use it or lose it” comes to mind. When certain muscles are not functioning properly, they actually inhibit movement patterns, range of motion, and ability to produce force. Over time, neuromuscular innervation becomes almost dormant as other muscle groups compensate for the lack of activity. A muscle cannot act until it receives an electrical impulse. This is how we define “activation” – to describe whether the muscle has received the appropriate electrical command to perform its function.

Therefore, we must regularly use movement patterns that will stimulate the target response or else we will effectively “lose” some of the “activation” ability. For example, a properly conditioned and activated piriformis will undoubtedly reduce the possibility of injury and improve performance. Stabilization throughout the body is critical. The piriformis, as one of the six (6) hip stabilizers, allows for a reduction in injury potential as the lower back is no longer forced to compensate for the lack of gluteal shock absorption. Piriformis stability is extremely critical to performance in terms of energy flow through the kinetic chain. If there is a break in the chain (sometimes called an energy leak), then the key ground reaction forces are compromised and cannot be used as effectively.

Put into practice:

A piriformis exercise such as the supine hip abduction pull is a simple activation-type exercise that can easily be incorporated into your warm-up routine. The supine hip pull is done lying on your back (on your back) with both legs remaining straight, then pull (maintain contact with the ground) one leg out as far as possible and then relax back to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 repetitions with each leg.

Third goal:

Educate and teach the body to “memorize” the basic mechanics of movement.

Discussion:

The area we can influence the most is the education of the mechanics of proper movement skills. The importance of this lies in understanding that these fundamental movement skills are the foundation of every athletic movement. Repetition alone is not enough to acquire skills or improve athleticism. We must constantly move in an environment that reinforces proper and efficient movement patterns. The concept of “muscle memory” is real, and it can be a real shame when poor mechanics are constantly reinforced. Essentially, this section reinforces the basic principles of proper biomechanical movement – posture, body position, drive angles, arm action, leg action, and foot strike.

In addition to generic jumps, skipping, running, etc… we have the opportunity to present specific technical movement skills. These are learned skills just as any athlete would learn to throw a football, kick a soccer ball, hit a baseball, or ride a bicycle. In my opinion, the person who said “you can’t learn speed” must be an amazing “natural athlete” who just hopped on his bike and sped down the road at lightning speed! Or maybe he wasn’t a particularly gifted athlete after all and couldn’t catch a ball and chew gum at the same time.

In any case, instructing the athlete on how the body should work is a vital and necessary endeavor. No matter how advanced, any athlete can improve their skills, coordination and overall athleticism.

Put into practice:

Basic linear movement skills such as the “A” march and jumps are necessary to establish basic straight forward speed. “A” marches and jumps are performed by maintaining a straight body position (from ear to ankle), holding the stomach tightly inward (as if holding the breath), elbows swinging at 90 degrees, raising the knees to waist height (90 degrees of knee bend) and the foot lifted up (90 degrees at the ankle) during movement – either slowly in a deliberate marching rhythm or with a controlled, quick downward strike of the foot in a skipping motion.

In conclusion, the ultimate goal of the warm-up routine should be to thoroughly prepare the athlete with the qualities in which to play. It should be conducted in a safe, appropriate and concise manner. I invite you to review your own warm-up procedures to see if they meet the Elevate, Excite, and Educate criteria.

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