Warm up – even in warm weather!

Most summer time sports such as tennis, soccer, ultimate, and softball require quick movements that pass through many planes of motion and use numerous joints and muscles at the same time. Quick sprints, runs side-to-side, cuts, twists, slides, quick stops and starts are common athletic skills that can be the cause of potential injury if you’re not prepared to do them.  ACL tears, ankle sprains, and groin strains are injuries we see on a regular basis as a result of not being warmed up before activity . Whether you are training hard or just out for fun, it is still important to perform a good dynamic warm up for the upper and lower body to minimimze the chance of injury as well as improve performance.  Follow this advice for a safe and effective warm-up.

1) General Circulation Warm-Up 

Start with an easy jog or a fast walk. Slowly warming the muscles helps prevent injuries that can be caused by going too hard, too fast and too soon with cold muscles and joints. Even in warm weather, a warm up can still be effective to ensure your neuromuscular system is prepped and ready for action.

2) Lower body core warm-up (low back, hip and leg)

Add some high knees, high heels, skipping, crossovers and side shuffle steps to improve coordination and add to the warm-up. Stand tall and keep the core muscles switched on.  Try doing 2 to 4 repetitions of each drill across 5 to 10 meters distance.

Warm up the hips with high knee marching & skipping

Warm up the hips with high knee marching & skipping

 

Heels should come close to contacting the buttocks.

Heels should come close to contacting the buttocks.

 

Maintain an athletic stance with hands forward, knees soft and the core switched on.

Maintain an athletic stance with hands forward, knees soft and the core switched on.

 

3) Upper body core and shoulder warm-up

For sports like tennis, golf, volleyball and ultimate, it is equally important to warm up the upper body.  Try doing 10 repetitions of shoulder shrugs, arm swings and thread the needle rotation exercises. These warm-ups will help get the correct muscle sequence firing, stabilize the shoulder girdle and lubricate the joints. Do 1 to 2 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions each side to warm up the spinal muscles and joints.

Start position of "thread the needle"

Start position of “thread the needle”

Finish position of "thread the needle" Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, bend torso forward and place one hand on the knee. Take the opposite hand and place it through the opening between the arm and leg. Next rotate the arm and torso towards the sky.

Finish position of “thread the needle” Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, bend torso forward and place one hand on the knee. Take the opposite hand and place it through the opening between the arm and leg. Next rotate the arm and torso towards the sky.

 

4) Balance (Ankle, Knee & Hip) Warm-Up:

For balance and further warm up the lower core with leg swings front and back, side to side and figures 8s. Try 5 to 10 repetitions of each. To challenge your balance, do this drill without holding on to anything.

Stand tall and keep the core switched on while swinging legs.

Stand tall and keep the core switched on while swinging legs.

 

5) Speed Warm-Up

This speed warm up helps trigger the central nervous system for the activity ahead. Try running on the spot “sewing machines” for 6 to 8 seconds at a medium tempo (60% of full speed), and then repeat 2-3 more sets, accelerating the speed each set up 80-90% of your max speed.

6) Muscle Tendon Warm-Up

Both muscles and tendons need to be warmed up as well. One of the best ways of doing this is to combine ricochet jumps and alternating lunges. Ricochet jumps are done in place as follows: 2 x 20 jumps at personal rhythm and 2 x 20 as fast as possible (short ground contact)

Short ground contact is the key to quick, effective ricochet jumps.

Short ground contact is the key to quick, effective ricochet jumps.

 

Alternating lunges are done in place. Gradually increase depth of lunge (don’t go past 90 degrees at the knee), and keep the knee over the toes. Try 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps.

Don't let your knee travel past your toes as you do alternating lunges.

Don’t let your knee travel past your toes as you do alternating lunges.

7) Post Activity Stretching:

After the game, do some gentle conform stretches to maintain muscle length and stretch out muscles that have tightened up. Studies have shown that static stretches prior to exercise do not prevent lower extremity overuse injuries, but additional stretches after training and before bed resulted in 50% fewer injuries. This type of stretch is not aggressive enough to tear tight muscle fibres. Hold the stretches for 15 to 20 seconds just to the point of tension only. Be sure to stretch all major muscle groups that you used during your sport.

Stand tall holding onto something for balance with foot on a chair behind the body. Bend the standing leg slightly until a stretch is felt in the quadriceps.

Stand tall holding onto something for balance with foot on a chair behind the body. Bend the standing leg slightly until a stretch is felt in the quadriceps.

 

8) Cool Down & Recovery Workout

After activity use a gradual cool-down to take the body back to its resting state and clear lactic acid and other waste products from the muscles. Research suggests that light aerobic exercise following anaerobic training (e.g sprints) might facilitate recovery of force or speed/power by increasing lactic acid removal.  Therefore to aid in muscle recovery and reduce post play stiffness have your clients go for a fast 15 to 20 minute walk, spin on an exercise bike with no resistance or do a light pool workout.

Pool running or walking can be a great cool-down activity.

Pool running or walking can be a great cool-down activity.

Always warm-up to play or practice.  Don’t play to warm-up!

Now get out there, keep fit to play, and have fun this summer!

 

Blog post written by Carl Petersen.  Photo model: Nina Nittinger

 

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