Warming Up: Basics with Structure

The structure of your practice is the main reason for your success or lack of success as a coach - Bobby Knight

It makes me cringe when kids tell me they are still doing arm circles and butt kicks to warmup for lifting or practice at school. Let's say you're a coach and only have 10 minutes to warmup the team and there isn't any equipment available.

What should you do?

Do you have any structure to follow?

Is this done as a team or individually?

First, what should a warmup accomplish? This is a time where you as a coach can not only get the team locked in for practice or competition, but prepare their body for the stress that is planned for that day. I believe this should always be done as a team to reinforce accountability to one another, and if any alone time pre-competition is needed, this can be done before or after the team warmup. The warmup should also be coached just as intently as a lifting movement or shooting drill.

Below, you'll find a system to follow with examples that do not require equipment. If done correctly, without any fluff, you can finish a quality warmup in 10 minutes.

Increase Body Temperature

  • ​This prepares the muscles/body to be dynamically stretched by increasing blood flow to the muscles and joints. The athletes should be starting to sweat after this stage.

  • My go to drills:

  • Activation from the ground up:

  • Single leg balance (Create arch in foot/lock knee back/squeeze glute), 3each/5sec hold

  • Alternating Front Bridge (lock legs/no hip movement/packed shoulder), 3each/5sec hold

  • 75% Shuffle w/arm swing, flip hips at half court x2 down and back + 75% back pedal, with hip turn at half court x2each turn direction

Lengthening Major Muscle Groups

  • ​Preparing the muscles for movements at higher speeds and re-lengthening from any previous soreness or tightness

  • Taking the body through slightly uncomfortable ranges of motion with movement and pivoting​

  • My go to drills:

  • ​Lateral lunge - each way with pivot on outside leg moving into the next rep - through half court (Sink into ankle, knee, and hip,chest up and centered)

  • Walking rotational lunge - through half court (knee over toe, sink into hips, straighten both legs, rotate inside arm to ceiling stacking shoulders)

  • Walking reverse lunge with overhead reach - through half court (slight forward lean, knee to floor and squeeze back glute while reaching palms to ceiling)

Activation of Nervous System

  • The body's temperature is up, muscles lengthened and ready for more rapid movements. This is the point where you can really activate the nervous system to fully be prepped for a training session, practice, or competition.

  • My go to drills:

  • Line hops for speed - 5-8 secs Forward/Backward/Side-to-Side each leg x 2 sets

  • Single leg bounds - Forward/Lateral/Diagonal 2-3 each leg, sticking landing 2 sec

  • Skips for power and/or reps - teaching posture and patterning while activating the nervous system, start with rhythm and move toward power and for reps

  • Starts and stops - teaching correct acceleration, deceleration, and re-acceleration mechanics with multiple angles and positions

  • Plyo Step, forward/lateral stops, deceleration into backpedal, deceleration into shuffle or defensive slide

Wrapping up, each of these categories will have a fluid time frame depending on the population you're working with. For example, youth athletes will need more work on positioning and stability exercises and college/professional athletes will need a bit more time on warmup and mobility. The answer to what should I do with my group will always be "it depends", but if you use a logical order and system you're going to put your athletes in a better position to succeed in the long term. Be consistent and don't change things just for the sake of variety...do less better.

As always, have a fantastic week/end and I'm looking forward to hearing what has worked well with other coaches and the populations they are working with. Cheers!

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