There are a lot of things in sport you can't control.
The officials, the weather, the opposition, the crowd. But one thing that is 100% in your control and that every team should aim to dominate is the warm-up.
Not every warm-up is created equal and there are lots of myths about certain types of warm-up being harmful to performance. We have taken the best of sports science, combined with our more than 30,000 hours of coaching experience and built what we believe to be the world's best athletic warm-up.
Warm-up 2.0 - designed for elite performance
This warm-up has four phases and should take no longer than 15 minutes (our elite teams get it done in 10). This article will provide a general overview of each phase, but there are links in each section to more thorough explanations and resources.
Phase 1: Foam roll for myofascial release
Foam rolling does the following: Eliminates muscle soreness, improves alignment and flexibility, improves thoracic posture, eliminates trigger points and enhances recovery - and is an extremely effective part of treating Osgood Schlatters Disease and Severs Disease.
If you are serious about your sport, or even just your fitness, rolling is a must-have component of your routine.
Rolling, or Self Myofascial Release (SMR), works on a number of levels to help loosen up and rejuvenate the body.
It is unclear exactly how rolling works, but time and time again we see athletes who consistently attend to foam rolling become more resilient and perform better.
- It mechanically loosens tight sections of fascia and muscle. This has the effect of increasing the fluidity of movement through an increased range of motion at key joints as well as increasing muscle function.
- Rolling also enables us to undo trigger points within our muscles. Trigger points or knots are a painful cry for help from a muscle gone into defensive lockdown. Apart from Botox (not advised!) the best way to switch off an overactive muscle (and thus allow it to lengthen and actually start working properly), is through the process of autogenic inhibition, aka pushing on the muscle until it releases.
- The third and least understood element of foam rolling is its effect on our recovery system. The most likely theory for this enhanced recovery is that the various receptors embedded within our muscles are stimulating an increase in healing activity due to the micro attack of the roller. The flow-on effect from this is a chemical change within the muscles as our healing is ramped up.
To read more and to learn how to do it check out: The Magic of Foam Rolling
Phase 2: Targeted static stretching for key handbrake muscles
Static stretching: it’s so boring, and it hurts. To say it’s unpopular would be an understatement.
But to us it’s one of the most exciting things in the world: a totally safe and easy way to fix a glaring deficiency and (often instantly) improve speed, power and vertical leap.
(Static stretching before sport is a contentious topic and one that goes beyond this article, but I will just note that the myth that static stretching diminishes performance is based on some very out of context science research!)
The key to stretching before sport is in the details:
- Limit dosage to (25-30sec) of gently holding in each position
- Use the correct stretches (we think the crouching three are the best for team sport and ball sport athletes)
- Follow the stretches up with a proper activation and dynamic warm-up series.
We also wrote an article on the power of stretching here: Increase Your Vertical Leap in Less than 10 minutes a day.
Phase 3: Activation
After mobility and flexibility have been restored, muscle activation becomes the next priority.
For most athletes this means lots of control based exercises to target the appropriate activation and timing of their glutes, their core, and scapular muscles. This kind of training is not so much training the muscles themselves, but rather training the brain to switch on the right muscle at the right time.
For this phase we progress from isolated to integrated (little to big). This means starting with basic muscle squeezes, then progressing into squatting, lunging, band work etc.
Activation training enables athletes to sidestep one of the most common pitfalls in strength training: the magnification of dysfunctional compensatory patterns.
Phase 4: Movement skill and dynamic
The first three phases serve as a kind of system reset, allowing the athlete to attack the upcoming session/competition free of the biomechanical baggage of inhibited knotted muscles, tight hip flexors or groins, and sleepy glutes.
Phase four is putting all that work into action.
Whilst many athletes are very skilful on the court and field, it's amazing how many of them are poor movers with problematic (and often dangerous) sprinting, cutting, landing and jumping technique. These athletes are able to overcome their movement deficiencies through their high levels of sports skill and game awareness. But a great sportsperson with movement skill problems is like a race car with poor wheel alignment!
Achieving basic competency in movement skills can have a profound effect on your long-term athletic development.
This section will vary from sport to sport (just please no leg swings!) but the fundamentals should remain the same:
- Small -> big
- Slow -> fast
- Simple -> complex