4 Steps for Better Preparation Before Practices and Workouts

by Garga Caserta, CSCS, USAW

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Not long ago, I was speaking with a soccer coach about integrating performance concepts into soccer practices. We were both fired up sharing our thoughts about how important it is that coaches understand how each component of practice may physically stress each athlete. We agreed every team should have a comprehensive warm up, and even further, they should have a systematic approach to it. At one point; I caught myself ranting about how every single exercise in a practice should relate to the other, which meant the warm up should be specific to each practice as well. After a few minutes of listening to me nerding out on the topic, the coach sneaks in a question:

“Yes, that all sounds really great, but … (I braced myself)

…  could you send me a warm up with all this stuff I can use for my team?” (yes he did).

I think he missed the point…

If a warm up is specific to the demands of a practice, it will need different details for each different practice. There isn’t just one perfect warm up! Now; trust me on that any warm up is better than no warm up in most occasions, but with a little bit of structure and consistency, any coach can become a master warmer upper.

Step 1: Activate (2-3 minutes)

Use general light movements like jogging, twisting, hopping, short passing, juggling, and any other low stress movements to get an increase in blood flow and temperature around muscles. Follow this with one or two sets of core exercise for the glutes, trunk, and shoulder complexes to ensure they are activated and ready to support and control major movements.

Step 2: Dynamic Stretches (3-4 minutes)

There are two key differences between static stretching and dynamic stretching. First; dynamic stretches are performed for repetitions of short duration versus the one long hold of a static stretch. Secondly; while static stretches are focused on lengthening an individual muscle group, dynamic stretches focus on moving through and challenging the range of motion of a movement pattern and all muscles units involved in it. Static stretches are great for increasing muscle length, but prior to a workout or practice, it could be an issue since it decreases the sensitivity of protective reflexive responses. So use dynamic stretches to prepare for demanding movement patterns.  

Step 3: Movement Integration & Dissociation (2-3 minutes)

Integrate practice movements at a slightly higher level than during activation early on, and use this moment to introduce coaching cues to these movements. For example; running technique drills like marching and skipping are perfect here, since it allows a chance for teaching better sprinting mechanics

Step 4: Central Nervous System Activation (1-2 minutes)

To finish boosting the connection between brain and muscles, decisions and execution movements, use rapid movements at maximum intensity over short durations. Quick feet actions against the ground like ladder drills can do the job here. Keep in mind the main objective here is to move at maximum quickness for a very short spam, no more than 5-6 seconds bursts.

Total duration 8-12 minutes! Don’t tell me there’s not enough time for this.

Give it a try before your next workout or practice and let us know how you feel here in the comments!