“For what?” Derek (Hansen) asked with a bewildered look on his face.
“This is what I’ve always done.” I sheepishly said, fearful of disappointing my coach and mentor.
What caused Derek’s confusion? My warm-up routine prior to our sprint session at The Hunter Gathering in the summer of 2019.
How NOT to Warm-Up: < Click for video.
- Spiderman Crawls
- Reverse Lunge + Reach
- Lateral Lunge
- Knee Hugs
- Quad-Pull + Reach
- Backwards Walking Toe-Touch
What is the one thing all the exercises above have in common? I’ll save you the suspension. They’re acyclical in nature. For the uninformed, “acyclical” is defined as not disposed in cycles. Why is this important for our considerations when administering a proper warm-up? Well, the blatantly obvious reason is running and sprinting are comprised of cycles, or cyclical actions, are they not? Keeping that in mind, why would it make sense to utilize acyclical exercises in preparation for a cyclical activity? It wouldn’t! It’s no different than wishing to smooth your swing off the tee box by playing the guitar. It doesn’t make any sense! The means don’t transfer to the skill we’re trying to enhance!
Make no mistake, it isn’t my intention to “poo poo” or belittle you for believing exercises like the example above are suitable for sprinting. I held the same philosophy for years! I had to fly all the way to Vancouver and have Derek pull my head out of my ass before I came to my senses.
Since then, I’ve adopted a much simpler – and effective – warm-up for producing faster athletes. I suggest you do the same. Your systems and processes in your athletic development program have a lot of moving pieces. Your warm-up doesn’t have to be one of those pieces.
|Phase 1: Exercises||Sets||Distance/Reps|
|Easy Accelerations||3||20 yards|
|Lazy Skips||1||20 yards|
|Skips w/ Arm-Swings||1 each||20 yards|
|Lateral Shuffle||1 each way||20 yards|
|Carioca||1 each way||20 yards|
|Running Cs||2||20 yards|
|Easy Acceleration||1||20 yards|
|Leg Swings||4||10 each|
The template above is more than enough to excite your athletes’ nervous system for fight-or-flight activity. As you can see, all of the exercises are cyclical in nature. Even the more “general” movements such as Lateral Shuffles and Cariocas would provide more benefit from a passive range of motion standpoint than any of the exercises listed in the previous warm-up.
|Phase 2: Exercises||Sets||Distance/Reps|
|2nd Gear + Run Out||2||5 yards + 15 yards|
|Running Cs + Run Out||2||5 yards + 15 yards|
|Falling Starts||2||20 yards|
|Falling Starts||2||30 yards|
|Leg Swings||4||10 each|
If your situation allots for it, then you can administer Phase 2. As you can see, we are now becoming more specific with our exercise selection. The only “general” exercise remaining is Leg Swings. You might be saying to yourself, “That is a lot of running.” and you’d be right! This is a warm-up for sprinting, correct? Only makes sense that our preparation involves quite a bit of it!
|Phase 3: Exercises||Sets||Reps/Distance|
|2nd/3rd Gear||3-4||10 yards|
|Falling Starts||3||30 yards|
Again, depending on your situation, you may not have the luxury of adding Phase 3 to your warm-up. If you do have the time, I highly recommend it. The administration of Mach Drills prove their worth every time. Limb mechanics, timing, rhythm, relaxation, and frequency are all “boxes” checked with the “A” drills.
For the skeptics who are wondering if the athletes are being exposed to too much running prior to the workout itself. Follow and trust:
- Runs and submaximal sprints can be used as a “drill” on their own. Since the athletes are not maximally sprinting, they can hone in proper technique due to slower speeds.
- The more runs the athletes perform, the more heat will be generated. The more heat generated, the longer their blood will remain in contact with their tissue. Why is this important? This activates more motor-units, meaning their fibers begin to take on the characteristics of Type-IIB, (those which are fast and explosive).
- If you are in the team setting, the warm-up above could be your competitive advantage. The total volume accrued is ~250m of sprinting. And although submaximal, the velocities achieved are much faster than any bullshit conditioning your head coach insists upon. Not only that, there will be little downtime between exercises/phases of the warm-up. Making it appear to be “busy” work. Which, as we all know, appeases sport coaches. So you’re getting 250m more exposure to high-speed running than your competition and your head coach is happy? Sounds like a win/win.
If you’re going to make a road trip across the country, then it would make sense you start in the right direction. And it is no different when developing faster athletes. An effective speed session starts with a proper warm-up. If you’re still utilizing acyclical exercises to solve your cyclical problem, then I urge you to consider a shift in your preparation paradigm. Your athletes’ performance, (and perhaps your job) depends on it. To put it bluntly, your warm-up for faster running should consist of, well, faster running. As Bill Hartman would ask, “Too simple?”