We never go back to the basics because we never leave them in the first place. However, I want to make sure that I take the time to teach so I know we are on the same page.
What are the basics? Even though I talk about warm up and lead up all the time, you may be new to this content. If you’ve been following for a while, this will be another resource for you to share or refer back to.
For the next two weeks, I’m going to cover the warm up and the lead up, two essentials of training that are some of the few things we do every day. The warm up in general can be summed up in preparation. You get your body warm and ready to do what it's going to do next.
A couple examples. When doing a weightlifting warm up, you’ll do movements that will help you with the primary strength movement for that day. You don’t focus on warming up your chest for leg day or your legs for benching. For speed, which is the focus for today, it’s similar. The variety, though, comes primarily in the lead up drills which I’ll cover next week. The warm up is more universal.
There are different philosophies to even something as simple as a warm up, and that’s ok. There are actions like soft-tissue related things that you can consider a part of the warm up. Whether you want to call it trigger point massage, myofascial release, or just rolling out, I love it and it works. So the tennis ball, softball, foam roller, PVC pipe, or whatever tools you have access to, go for it.
The pressure is up to your tolerance. Keep in mind the muscle is a funny tissue. It'll do what it wants to do. If a muscle is upset and it's been stressed or strained, you don't want to cramp or spasm. Do what you got to do.
For me it goes back to an athlete taking ownership of their program and doing certain things on their own. The rest of the warm up I’ll talk about today is what I’ll take groups or teams through together.
Cold muscles don’t like to stretch. Cold muscles are recipes for disaster.
From a science standpoint, we know that muscle, joints and tendons work better at a higher temperature. Muscles that have been at rest are simply dormant. You've got to get the muscle ready to endure stress. So what that means is we start moving around and doing basic movements that are fundamental across the board.
So if you’re in the south and you’re training outside in the summer, obviously it’s hot. You can get warmed up walking across the parking lot. In all seriousness, the principle is heat. That is it.
As a reminder, the heat’s a thief. Don’t overdo it. Naturally allow your warmup to shrink. A four minute jog can turn into a two minute jog. The jog itself is easy. Start off as slow as necessary. I refer to it as a pedestrian pace. All you’re going for is to wake up the muscle for the movements that are coming up.
That can look like one easy lap around a track or field if you’re outside or as mentioned for time in an indoor space.
Now that the muscles are warm, I typically go into a dynamic stretch.
Since we are preparing for all-out running, I prefer to stay up and in motion. That looks like traveling stretches.
Now, there are dynamic movements you can do from a spot. For example, there are protocols for athletes to go to the ground and do hip complexes including range-of-motion drills like iron crosses. That may be preferable for strength days because on the ground you can do movements that warm up the shoulder girdle.
Again, my focus is geared toward the warm up for speed today.
Names aside, it’s about the muscle being stretched. So while some people may call them Frankensteins versus Walking High Toe Touch or whatever else, the point is the hamstring is getting stretched.
The main basic muscles you are looking to stretch are:
If you think of steps like reps, one yard is approximately one rep. So if you go about 20 yards, you might get about ten reps per leg. Encourage your athletes to not waste space and travel extra steps without properly performing the stretch.
You want your athletes to be excellent in the warm up because that attitude and effort translates into everything else they do. If an athlete isn’t willing to be disciplined in the warm up, they may be inclined to not be disciplined in the ladder, hurdles, cones or other speed drills.
As always, this helps reduce the risk of injuries because lazy technique can get a kid hurt.
The one thing about a static stretch that I think you have to keep in mind is it's not invaluable. It's very valuable.
They found out back in the old days that if you can sit and stretch briefly after an activity that you might be able to hold your range of motion better as the muscle cools down.
Observationally, when I work with athletes after ACL reconstruction, particularly if the athlete is coming from physical therapy, how much more range of motion their hamstrings have on the surgical side than the non-surgical side.
The PTs just work that surgical side so extensively, really pushing the range of motion and flexibility. So static stretching has a place. It might be insufficient though for speed training.
Take the time to teach your kids how to stretch and increase their range of motion. There's a thing called PNF stretching or partner stretching. When using a partner, that can be a very valuable tool in the static stretching area.
Finally, there are the basic movements that just cover the different angles or directions. The goal is to move forward, backward and laterally with some rotation, preliminary ground force application and some quick twitch.
This list is as old as time:
Again the qualifier “easy” can’t be stressed enough.
An easy jog starts focusing on no heel contact making sure to have a light bounce on the balls of the feet. An easy backpedal focuses on proper tall posture and proper lift of the foot so as to not stumble or trip. An easy shuffle stays tall and includes a full range of motion arm swing to warm up the shoulders. An easy carioca needs a good wiggle in the torso to loosen up the hips; be sure to turn the lead foot. The easy skip gets the ankle mobility going while the bigger skip focuses on producing more force.
With the butt kicks and high knees you want light steps with lots of touches in order to start eliciting the quick twitch reflex. It is important that these two look different from each other. Often athletes come up with a blend so the drill is not clear.
For high knees, the heel goes under the butt where the hip flexor is the main contraction. The knee truly gets high. For butt kicks, the heel goes behind the butt where the hamstring is the main contraction. The knee stays low.
All of this can be 20-30 yards with the last two, the butt kicks and high knees, being condensed to half the distance to promote proper execution.
Once you complete this simple and standard warm up, you’re ready to lead up into full speed based on the speed training theme for that day.