It blows my mind, but I frequently hear about young teams and athletes who do not warm up properly or do not even warm up in the first place before their workouts or games. Or I’ll see a warm-up in which static stretching is being performed before a game. Long gone are the days of reaching down to try to touch your toes and holding for 15-20 seconds and repeating the same protocol for other muscle groups. This type of warm-up can be detrimental to an athlete’s performance!
A 2014 study in the National Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that static stretching reduced explosive strength and performance for up to 24 hours after the stretching was performed. However, with the group that performed dynamic stretching, the positive effects of the warm-up actually lasted for up to 24 hours. The disclaimer here is that static stretching is not always bad and it may have a place, just that there are better and more efficient ways to prep you for your workout, practice, or game/event.
Your warm-up can make or break your athletic performance and it is paramount for athletes to be warming up properly, effectively, and efficiently. So what constitutes a good dynamic warm-up? A good dynamic warm-up has four phases – Inhibition, Lengthening, Activation, and Integration. This can be done through a combination of self-myofascial release, dynamic stretching/movements, activation exercises, and finally sport specific movements.
When I was training for some NFL Regional Combines in 2014 and 2015, I learned a lot about how to warm-up properly and it made a world of difference in my performance on the field. A good warm-up should get your muscles loose, your glutes fired up, and your body primed for peak performance. This is something all athletes should be incorporating before practices, games, and workouts. Not only does it get you ready to play at a high level, it helps to reinforce proper movement patterns as well. But perhaps most importantly, a good dynamic warm-up can help reduce injury risk significantly.
Your Warm-Up and Glute Activation
Glute activation is an important factor that helps determine athletic performance. So how do we achieve peak glute activation to be able to perform at the highest level? It’s important to first understand the anatomy and function of the entire posterior chain.
The posterior chain is the group of muscles that includes the erector spinae (lower back muscles), gluteus maximus and minimus, the biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus (hamstrings), and the gastrocnemius and soleus (your calf muscles). The hamstrings are important because they are a muscle group that is biarticular, i.e. crosses two joints – the hip and the knee. The semimembranosus and semitendinosus assist in hip extension and knee flexion while the biceps femoris not only assists in hip extension and knee flexion but rotates the lower half of the leg when the knee is in flexion. Practically speaking for athletes, the hamstrings are extremely important for deceleration and stopping quickly to be able to make cuts.
So what makes your glutes stand out? The glutes allow for hip extension and hyperextension, hip abduction (lateral movement of the leg), external rotation (giving you the ability to turn your feet out), help to prevent valgus collapse, and help to stop the spine from too much extension or flexion. The problem is, for most athletes, the glutes are inactive or underactive. This is most often due to tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings. How do we alleviate this issue? Through a well thought-out, dynamic warm-up that focuses on activating the glutes and opening up the hips and hamstrings. Glute bridges, single-leg bridges, standing RDLs, walking lunges, step throughs with bands, and side lunges are some great exercises to incorporate in your dynamic warm-up to help with this.
Below is a great sample warm-up you can use before workouts or competition.
Glute bridges - 10 reps
Single leg bridges - 10 reps total
Side-lying clams - 10 reps total
Mountain climbers - 20 reps total
Walking quad stretch with reach - 10 reps total
Walking tin man - 10 reps total
Walking Lunges with Overhead Reach - 10 reps total
Reverse lunges with twist - 10 reps total
Bodyweight squats - 10 reps
Cossack lateral squats - 10 reps total
Ankle hops - 2 x 15 reps
Single leg ankle hops - 10 reps / leg
High knees - 2 x 10-15 yds
Skips - 2 x 10-15 yds
Workout-SpecificUpper body workouts - extra shoulder and upper back work (w/y/t/l, band pull-aparts, etc)
Lower body workouts - add dynamic movements that help improve mobility for athlete-specific weaknesses
Practices/games/skill workouts - light warm-up drills specific to the sport