Blah. Even the term warmup sounds boring. Nobody in the history of sports, coaches, athletes, performance specialists and you have really NAILED a warmup. It’s lame by definition.
It’s well past time for an update.
Remember back in the days when you would do a warm-up and THEN you would do your workouts or your sport. It is still taught like this a lot. Like everything in the fitness world, typically much of what you see done is about 20 years behind. So let’s get you up-to-date.
Most of us in the sports performance world, coaches that are up to date, and modern military training are fighting to get rid of the term “warm-up. “
Because just the term warm-up involves a certain level of half-ass-ed-ness. (great word) It’s reality. Nobody really dials in this part. And let’s be real – if we’re talking dynamic movement, agility in motion, activation, and mobilization of a college-level athlete or military/law enforcement operator- These things, movement, agility, direction change, and jumping ability are by all means as important than the strength and power component.
Recently while lecturing at a university I asked the college basketball coaches, “What Component of fitness makes a bigger difference in your players for their ability to straight out win more games? Think about the last 90 seconds of every game through the season. There are a lot of games won and lost in those 90 seconds. What do you think helps the most. Your player’s explosiveness and first step, Their vertical jump, or their max bench press?
The answers were a tossup. Some coaches thought the vertical jump would probably help out more because the ability to rebound. Others thought maybe explosiveness and the first step was more important for the chance of steals and just being in a better position. None of them thought it was the bench press.
So my thought that I gave them was why do we call the things that help out with explosiveness and their ability to jump the “warm-up” yet the “proper workout” may not be the most vital component for WINS?
It’s a terminologies issue. It’s not lifting weights isn’t important it’s just that for most athletes the Real focus, and therefore the real workout is the other components of fitness. And then suggested we just simply get rid of the term warm up. It Has to die.
I was a college athlete. Just one generation ago. It’s not like dynamic exercises, high knees, or butt kickers. Grapevine, high skips, A and B skips weren’t done- they were. Every single day before practice and games. The problem was they were just done half-assed. None of us really cared because we didn’t really understand the importance.
A generation ago we were told that our weight, as in physical weight, and how strongly were particularly on the squat, bench press, and power cleans equaled a better football player.
My argument is, with a looking glass of time it is very easy for me to look back and realize, I would’ve been twice the football player 15 pounds less and carry much more about my agility to get away from big guys and my explosive first step to get into a proper position would have made for far more successful football players and probably dozens of more tackles.
I was in the era of strength coaches asking, “How much are you Weighing?” and “What’s your squat and bench max?”
When I teach my physics of football lecture, I show coaches a much better question to ask an athlete during the summer is, “What is your fastest 10 yard time?”
I hope everybody gets it at this point. We all understand that Speed kills, acceleration is a more important factor than mass, and agility and ability will win more games than strength.
Yet my freshman in high school thinks he does a warm-up THEN a workout. My soccer kids ask, when do we start “working out?”
Simply removing the term makes for much faster progress. And gets all of you reading this up to speed. The professionals don’t call to warm up anymore. It automatically dates you.
So what are the terms and how do we put them into the best order?
If you show up at a top-level University or the professional ranks your workout for the day will be broken up into about five or six different components. It will look like this.
Change of position or agility
Strength and power
A few of these may be turned around depending on your sport or may have slightly different terminology depending on your coach or what phase of the season you are in -but this is the basic way it is laid out. As I mentioned in my article the Big 3 is now the Big 4, a lot of the top teams also have a “Stress Assessment”, every single day, before any of this just to gauge the athlete’s readiness.
Mobility is one of the biggest components that is missed and therefore a large part of this article. It’s performed but as I stated earlier, nearly never done with a purpose. Athletes just don’t dial in as there is no stress on the importance of it with sports performance. It’s a critical component of speed and acceleration, injury prevention, and win and losses. I made up an article about what my biggest TikTok video would be – it would be this one!
If nothing else get the three big engines moving correctly. It doesn’t matter how much muscle you have attached to your body if the engines aren’t working the right way. Your hips, ankles, and shoulders need to move prior to any activity.
My suggestion, “Open and Close the Gates” for the hips.
“Spell the alphabet with your ankles” with the biggest letters you can make,
use a “Cuban Press” for your shoulders.
I like all my mobility to be in 20 reps. I just haven’t seen any true changes with 10 reps.
Here is a tip-When I began to decide to try mobility before workouts I would typically quit After a few days because I really just didn’t see any benefit. It wasn’t until I decided to drop my ego and really dive into fixing an injury issue that I was having during running that I decided to stick with mobility and really give it a fair chance. On about, the sixth or seventh day is when I really noticed a difference. Everything in my body moves better. Everything activated. My pain went away. My injury was fixed, my mechanics improved and my performance exploded.
Immediately after mobility, you want to get to activation.
This is much different than strength. It is simply getting your brain to recognize the muscle. It’s amazing how often I see this and I think it’s THE FACTOR in what we typically call compensation. Modern views have named it “offline.”
You need to ensure your brain is controlling the right muscles in the right order BEFORE a strength and power component! You want to have some sort of physical touch while you train activation. It’s called neural connectivity and it’s just a really big deal for how the brain maps the body. You physically put your fingers on the body parts you want to activate. Again we’re dealing with the three big engines. Put your hand on your butt and make your glutes flex. 10 reps are off. I would specifically target the Glute medius as that is the Primary anchor for everything lower body and upper body. You cannot throw a baseball without first having the counterweight at the glute medias and hip working correctly. Well you can, you’re just going to end up with shoulder and elbow issues. Sound familiar for baseball players?
I have been playing with mobility and then activation for a few months with all of my workouts. I do it, despite being an old-school gym rat and fighting every single time just to blow it off. I can get through The three engines’ mobility and activation in seven minutes and 20 seconds.
It makes a tremendous difference. In the absence of any other physical changes, when I do these consistently, even for three or four days in a row my mile times on a 3-mile run are one minute less per mile! My burpees are much more efficient. It’s doing a lot for performance because it is prioritizing the correct muscles for the task. The human body has an uncanny and amazing ability to cheat to get the job done and will easily substitute a secondary muscle to get a job done or take a burden and load off. But there is a cost over time.
This is what I think the old term warm-up was meant to do. But when you take a second to explain the difference and prioritize “correct function and WHY” switching the term to “mobility and activation” components, for the athletes, really can get them dialed in.
Really, in a perfect world, there would be some “rah-rah” type coach explaining the benefits and the purpose behind mobility and activation a couple times per week just to keep the athletes dialed in as we all did these basic warm-ups for so many years without focusing on anything and just going through the motions that it just is a routine habit. But those two components will make a bigger difference in your sports performance than most of the other things that you can add in.
You think this would catch on by now! A few of our top sports personal trainers in my city stress this more than any other component yet have a hard time finding athletes to sign up for their programs every summer because the parents think they are wasting time and money by not diving into some magical workout. Dads want to see a big bench press for their $100/week training sessions. Yet, The real magic in the sports arena comes from mobility and activation.
I’ll put it like this, it doesn’t matter how big the engine is on your car. You can put a Ferrari engine on a minivan body and you still have a POC car. It’s just not going to last. It might be fast for a couple drags but it is going to break down. We are only as strong as our weakest link and strength without mobility is asking for injury at the worst and subpar performance at best.
Agility should be trained nearly every workout and I think this is your typical “dynamic warmup” we talked about. The High knees, but kickers and different skips. Lateral motion, backwards running. The term dynamic warm-up is replaced with agility component- I’m guessing you already do this anyway.
“Agility phase“ will strictly have a better outcome and focus than calling it a dynamic warm-up or a warm-up. It’s modern.
Because speed training needs to be done with a lot of rest and a full tank of gas, typically an athlete focusing directly on speed would have their speed component at this point. Speed is tough to train. It takes an expert. It needs to be done at full recovery and full rest and near maximal exertion.
Strength and power aren’t exactly the same. Although they are typically done in the weight room. These components need to have some serious focus and a pro to help them sort through priority for sports performance as well.
I’ll leave it up to the specific coaches to design the programs best built for your athletes. The focus of today’s episode is to Stop using old outdated terms like warm up and get modern with mobility and activation, agility phase, power, speed, and strength components when designing your plans for athletes.