A thorough warmup serves many purposes. Because of this, every session begins with a warmup that lasts anywhere from 10-30 minutes. A properly designed warmup should progress from low to high intensity, and from less to more specific. While all programs at UAD are individualized, the warmup for land-based athletes remains largely the same for all. It is constituted of movements and ideas derived from Charlie Francis, Dan Pfaff, Cal Dietz, Loren Landow, Gerard Mach, Buddy Morris and others. The athletes move in all directions and planes, while emphasizing posture & stability through motion and mobility in the appropriate structures. Some exercises also act as a form of practice for the work to follow.

The mechanisms through which a properly designed, thorough warmup improves performance are many.

“A proper dynamic warm-up acts as a mobilizing stimulus for the systems involved in oxygen transport, allowing a high level of aerobic activity to be reached more quickly, reducing initial oxygen deficit, and allowing the aerobic system to provide energy for a longer period of time, as well as increasing muscle temperature and improving blood flow to the muscles, allowing for more oxygen delivery and faster removal of metabolic byproducts.” (Stewart & Sleivert)

A warm muscle results in warm motor neurons. “This heating lowers the electrical resistance in the neural pathways within muscle, thus improving the muscle’s contraction speed” (Francis). This results in greater speed, power, and strength output.

Dynamic flexibility is a must for joint health especially in aging athletes. Movement about a joint creates changes in pressure in the joint capsule that drives nutrients from the synovial fluid (the fluid a joint is encased in) toward the cartilage of the joint. Since cartilage lacks its own blood supply, the chrondrocytes (the cells that produce cartilage), must depend on diffusion of oxygen and nutrients directly from synovial fluid for survival. Appropriately, joint mobility correlates highly with joint health.” (Morris)

Additionally, if the heart rate is kept in the appropriate range, the warmup may also be used as a form of cardiac output training, contributing to cardiac efficiency and increases in stroke volume. At the moment, I do not have the athletes wearing heart rate monitors, though it is a goal in the future.

Research has repeatedly shown that excessive static stretching decreases performance, and does nothing to decrease injury risk. As such, we do no static stretching in the warmup, save for some athletes whose mobility is very poor and need the extra range of motion to achieve positions during training they otherwise likely would not be able to. Research has shown that following static stretching with dynamic work negates the negative effects of static stretching, so any stretching takes place after the heart rate elevation and before the rest of the warmup.

Of course, simply having access to a list of exercises is meaningless without the ability to appropriately introduce, teach, progress and regress them (if necessary). The hope is that this article and list prompt coaches to think critically about the inclusion of all aspects of their program.

UAD Warmup Sample

How a Soccer Star is Made

Excellent article I came across today from a few years back on the development of soccer clubs in Europe. Take note of the fact that competition is NOT stressed at an early age – skill and fitness development are paramount.

How a Soccer Star is Made

Dr. James Andrews on Youth Pitching Injuries

When it comes to sports injuries, there is one name that pretty much always comes up – Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews is a well-known orthopedic surgeon who has performed probably as many Tommy John surgeries as anyone in the world. As such, his expertise in this area is not to be disregarded. I would also add that one aspect that he doesn’t specifically address or note is that of practice. So often we only consider what is taking place during games – the pitch counts – and disregard what is happening during practice and training, which is where much of the wear, tear, and fatigue usually comes from. Hence the importance of an intelligent coach who can prescribe loads that are in line with the athlete’s needs.

The Shameful Fraud of Sorting for Youth Meritocracy

Seth Godin wrote a great blog post this morning about the folly of utilizing “success” at an early age as a way of delineating how the youth are trained going forward. As he mentions, this is not limited to sports, but goes for all avenues – school, music, etc. Build the foundation, reward effort, and worry about “success” (using whatever metrics you deem appropriate) later.

Exercise as Punishment

One practice of coaches that continues to astound me is the use of exercise as punishment. I can’t say I haven’t been guilty of this in the past, but thankfully I graduated high school and got smarter.

Think about it this way – would it make sense for a teacher to punish their class by bombarding them with homework for doing poorly on a test? Or would they probably be better off figuring out why they did poorly and attempting to correct it?

Some will argue that by utilizing punishment, the athlete will be focused on not screwing up, and therefore do better. This is wrong on many levels, but the simplest of which is that the mind simply doesn’t deal well with negatives. Telling yourself to NOT think of something is the surest way for it to appear. Don’t think about a pink elephant. What happened? I think I know.

This doesn’t mean a coach can never be negative, but realize that positive coaching cues are sure to have a greater impact. Saying “do this,” instead of “don’t do this,” will have a much different outcome.

Others will argue for the “mental toughness” ingrained from such training. The question must be asked, however, are you truly instilling mental toughness? Or allowing them to demonstrate their ability to endure an ass kicking? Additionally, what impact is the lactic training (as this is what most punishment consists of) having on the physiology of the athlete? It’s not positive.

This is especially common among youth coaches. Again, the question must be asked – what is the benefit of having a champion 10 year old? There are a select few sports in which high sport results at a young age are a requirement. Other than female gymnastics, diving, and perhaps a few others, there is no correlation to sporting success later in life. In fact, it’s more likely that those athletes with greater genetic gifts will be more successful early in their sporting life. And going back to the concept of lactic loading, it becomes even more detrimental to young and developing athletes.

Long story short – utilize the training time wisely. All coaches will lament their lack of time available to work on all the things they want to, and yet unnecessarily spend at least part of it performing things which, at best, have no relevance to sport success, and at worst, are detrimental and possibly contribute to injury. If the question becomes how best to eliminate mistakes, the answer may lie in removal or decrease in playing time, or at the very least, discussion with the athlete themselves on how to fix the issues.