Developing your speed (part 1) - the warm up
In the first of seven articles on speed development, Patrick Beith explains the importance of a good warm-up
An effective warm up must consist of a series of dynamic and active movements that start with low impact, low intensity exercises and progress naturally to high intensity, full speed exercises that simulate the intensity of the upcoming practice or competition. As you know, in order for your athletes to be ready to perform speed work or compete at high intensities, they must get warmed up properly.
Static or dynamic?
We often find that there is some confusion as to what constitutes a proper warm up. For example, some coaches are still using static stretching to get athletes loose before practices and competitions. Unfortunately, this outdated method actually reduces speed and power. Think about it: How often during a practice or competition does an athlete hold a stretch position as part of their sport? That is right, not very often. So if you are still using this method to get your athletes ready to compete, you are not getting the most out of their ability.
Instead, have your athletes perform dynamic exercises that are similar to the types of movements they will be going through during practice and competitions. Keep athletes moving and gradually increase the intensity of their activity. That way you can get the blood flowing into the muscles through a natural progression. Remember, a good warm up should take at least 20 to 25 minutes to complete. This will reduce the likelihood of injury by ensuring that they do not try to go too fast too soon. In addition, athletes will get the most out of their muscles because they followed a thought out progression of movements that went from low intensity jogging and skipping to high intensity speed development drills and exercises. By the time they are done warming up, they will be lightly sweating, fired up and ready compete!
Another issue to note when doing any type of drills is to make sure that your athletes are performing the exercises correctly. You compete like you practice. If athletes are not performing the drills correctly they are going increase the likelihood of injury by adding unnecessary stress to joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Drills are designed to be done a certain way for a specific reason. If your athletes are not technically sound during the warm up they will not be technically sound in games and competitions when it counts. The warm up is not a time for goofing off. It is the foundation of the day's activities and sets the tempo for all that is to follow it. So now that you know what types of activities must be done and how to approach them, let us take a look at an actual dynamic warm up that top athletes and coaches use to get ready each day.
Before trying this out with your athletes, be sure to have them jog and/or skip for about 5 minutes.
Here is a sample warm up
By performing this type of warm up every day, your athletes will be loose, powerful and fast. In fact it is the only way. Be sure that your team is performing a dynamic warm up before each practice and competition; otherwise the athletes you train are not competing to the best of their ability and the likelihood of sustaining an injury is increased. You expect the best from your athletes, are you giving them the same in return?
When you compare the benefits that the dynamic warm up offers to the drawbacks of other warm up methods, you can expect an immediate improvement in the success of the athletes you work with.
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About the Author
Patrick Beth is a co-owner of Athletes' Acceleration, Inc, a company devoted to performance enhancement whose mission is to improve the knowledge base of motivated coaches and athletes in order to improve athletic performance. He is a Performance Consultant certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS), the American Council of Sports Medicine (HFI), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (PES) and is a USA track and Field Level II Coach in the Sprints, Hurdles and Jumps.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: