Why is warming up important?
Many times, we hear about the importance of warm up programs as a way to reduce the risk of injuries. However, there is a lot more to. As we´ve mentioned before, there are 4 general components of the game: Technical, tactical, physical, and mental.
If properly structured, the warm up program can benefit all of the mentioned components, as we are going to see below.
According to the latest and best scientific evidence, tailored warm up programs have been proven to:
• Reduce the risk of injuries
• Reduce the stiffness of the muscular tissue -> More tissue mobility
• Regulate the function of the nervous system, reducing the reaction time and improving the way it responds to external stimuli
• Raise body temperature
All the above-mentioned benefits will help to improve the physical component of the game.
• Optimise motor patterns (trough their rehearsal) -> Development of the technical component
• Increase the focus levels of the and reduce anxiety -> Development of the mental component
How to perform a quality warm up session?
Most warm-up session last between 10-30 minutes, meaning all the content we want to put in this session must be thoroughly factored in this short period of time. The time stap varies according to the type of activity we will perform next (practice session, game, physical conditioning, game, etc). In other words, we must only include in the warm-up routine exercises we know will have a positive impact on a player´s performance.
The must used warm-up framework is the RAMP protocol, which has 3 phases:
Each of these phases plays an essential role in the delivery of the expected effects of the warm up program, aiming for the optimisation of the athlete´s physical, physiological, and mental abilities, as it was mentioned previously in this article. In addition, the systematic structure of the protocol ensures that the activities are sequence in a manner that enables that each phase progressively builds on the previous one.
In every phase, there needs to be a focus on the movement quality, because there´s no point in warming up with bad movement mechanics, because the expected effects won´t come up.
One of the great benefits of this protocol is that it doesn´t increase the overall training load, which means it won´t contribute to the player´s fatigue and soreness, contrary to the belief that some people have that warm up programs leave players feeling more tired and therefore worst prepared for the task that will come up.
In the next paragraphs we will look in depth at each phase.
Phase 1: Raise
As it´s name indicates, the main goal of this phase is to give the body information that it is no longer in “rest mode”. The body is expected to respond in such a way that it´s physiological variables (like heart rate and blood flow) should go up, preparing the body for the upcoming activity.
Although most people think an example of this phase is “jogging around the field” and by consequence a waste of time, that misconception is wrong.
This phase is important, and the activities included in it can be more sport specific (like base line drills) or less sport specific (running), but in each one there are elements which need to be controlled, like:
• Duration (usually its ~5 minutes)
• Intensity -> Should be low to start off and increasingly get higher as the Raise phase progresses
• Change of direction, which can be done with the athlete changing direction according to external stimuli, which better replicates the game context where it´s an external element (the ball) that dictates the athlete movements
• Complexity (higher or lower number of technical components included)
At a competitive level, its normal for warm-up sessions to include the rehearsal of motor patterns which will be abundant during the session.
Note: In this phase you can get creative, but don´t go overboard because you can severely fatigue your athletes, which will obviously have a negative impact on their performance during the training session/competitive moment.
During this phase, the level of cognitive challenge in the movements/activities performance can vary according to the athlete´s level of capability, in order to produce even higher levels of movement competency.
Phase 2: Activate & Mobilise
The two main aims of this part of the warm-up session are:
• Mobilisation of key joints and ranges of motion, specific to sport played
• Activation of key muscular groups
Both of these goals can be achieved with focus on integrated movements that requite coordinated movement in multiple joints at the same time, rather than just performing traditional stretching exercises, because flexibility won´t help you if you don´t have high stability levels.
During this phase of the warm-up, typical activation and mobilisation movements include:
• Lunges and squats
• Dynamic stretching -> Important because currently there is evidence that static stretching has a negative effect on the ability of power and maximum force production
• Balance work
• Spinal mobility exercises (rotation, lateral flexion, flexion, and extension)
In the first phase there were a lot of physiological changes induced by the exercises performed. Those changes will allow the execution of the mobilisation and activation exercises without the increase of the risk of injury or of inducing unnecessary fatigue to our athletes.
While we are conceiving this phase, its essential we carefully consider the fundamental movements and demands imposed by the sport in question (in this case, tennis). The more specific we are in the warm-up session the higher the chance is to effectively prepare the players for training/competition and substantially reducing the risk of injury.
This phase should have a duration of approximately 5 minutes, with higher intensity than the previous one.
Phase 3: Potentiate
The main objective of this phase is to prime the athletes for their training session or competition, which can be achieved with exercises that will directly lead to performance improvements in the following activities. In other words, it is the ultimate transition phase between the warm-up and the sport itself, meaning it will begin to incorporate sports-specific activities using rinsing intensities.
Here are some examples of drills utilised in this phase of the warm-up:
• Reactive agility drills in a chaotic environment
• Plyometric exercises (bilateral and unilateral)
• 5-10m accelerations
• Rehearsal of specific tennis drills performed in similar conditions to the ones that will be faced in practice/game
It has a duration of approximately 10 minutes, and the intensity of the tasks performed should once again be higher than it was on the previous phase, because the body is now fully prepared for this type of activities that will function as a bridge to whatever kind of activity the player enrols after the warm up.
In conclusion, we hope this article shed a light about the importance of warmups and the way we can implement them in our training sessions, in order to help you reach even higher performance levels and be better prepared for your training sessions and competitive games.
In the box down below you can find the PDF document for this article that contains more information and exercise samples you can include in your warm up program. Be sure to take this chance to further improve your knowledge!