Warm-Up in 3 Simple Steps
One spring training with the Minnesota Twins, I was in the bullpen getting a few of our pitchers ready to go out in relief toward the end of a game. A former player that had retired long before anyone on my team was even born had been visiting. He came back to the bullpen to see the pitchers either stretching, throwing, jumping, or doing band exercises before going out to pitch. “I can’t believe we’re to the point where you guys need a special coach here for stretching and warm up. You know what I did to get warmed up before I came out of the bullpen back in the day? I’d set my beer down, touch my toes once and get out there!”
Needless to say, this is not a very effective warm up! While I’m sure some of my players began to longingly wonder what it must have been like to play in an era where beer in the bullpen was just part of baseball, I know many of them couldn’t imagine performing at a high level with that type of preparation.
Regardless of that retired player’s thoughts on our warm up, it’s very important prior to exercise. Your muscles, tendons, ligaments and nervous system all need to be prepared for what you intend to ask them to do. We can improve exercise performance and reduce injury by taking three simple steps:
Step 1: Sweat
An effective warm up starts by… you guessed it… getting warm! Jog or walk a few laps on the track, hop on a bike, do some light calisthenics – really anything to get a light sweat worked up. This should take anywhere from two to five minutes and will facilitate increased joint range of motion in our next two steps.
Step 2: Loosen up
Next you’ll want to work on some light flexibility of tight areas that may limit what you plan to do. For example, any hockey player I’ve ever worked with has incredibly tight calves from spending so much time in skates. This really hinders his or her ability to get into a good squat or lunge. We’ll spend some time addressing that in the warm up. You can spend anywhere from 5-10 mins doing dynamic stretches & foam rolling.
Step 3: Practice
To end the warm up, you’ll want to start getting more specific toward your workout for that day. Doing weighted lunges? Start with bodyweight. Box jumps? Try light ankle hops. Bench press? Do sets with the bar or light weight. Anything that is a less intense version of what you’re about to do. This gives your nervous system a chance to adjust as you increase intensity. It also reinforces proper form. This part of the warm up bridges you right into your workout and should take under five minutes.
So there you have it. Sweat — Loosen Up — Practice. Simple, but not necessarily easy. Now go out and get ready to work!