A Warm up, (almost) Face-plant, and the movie ‘Hoosiers’

Posted: March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

A few weeks back, I received an email from a friend of mine who coaches high school volleyball. He wanted my thoughts on a warm up  for his team that could be incorporated into the pregame routine.

I told him: Just don’t do any static stretching and everyone would be fine!

That was it.

Ok, kidding (sort of).

After having a few chats over email, I figured out exactly what he was looking for and I thought he made some fantastic points in describing precisely why he wanted what he wanted.

Being in the world of academia for the last three years often gets students (myself included) to see things very black and white. The research shows this, so we must do that. I learned this new concept at a seminar last week so I must apply it… TO EVERYTHING!!!! The athletes need x,y, and z because that is what the science tells us. What I forgot about was some of the hidden benefits of exercises and routines. In other words, what can a great warm up do for a team’s psyche? This is what my friend said,

It’s pretty important for me to have them warm up as one unit.  When we
walk into a hostile environment or we’re playing in front of a large
crowd it’s important to me to have a set warm up that the boys can get
right into and feel familiar and comfortable with regardless of their
environment. It also makes us look pretty badass and intimidating when
we walk out and look crisp and sure of ourselves in our warm-up.

I think these are all great points. Many people in the medical and sports performance community pride themselves on treating each person as an individual. I am certainly one of them. That being said, there is a time and place where the benefit of everyone doing exactly the same thing is useful. Could you imagine having 20 kids run out for a pregame routine and having them all do 3 million different corrective exercises? It would be total chaos. Whether the game is in an elementary school gym or Madison Square Garden, that 15 minutes before the whistle blows should never change. This will always help a team get comfortable with any venue their game may be played. This is exactly the point in this scene from Hoosiers:

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. My friend wanted his players to be able to follow the lines on the volleyball court. This would make it easier to keep everyone organized and crisp.
  2. He wanted the kids to be moving and to avoid static type exercises.
  3. The team has about 15 minutes in pre game to get everything done including sport specific exercises.

In this video, each exercise was performed for roughly 10 yards (and in the friendly confines of my driveway). It will be modified based on the structure the volleyball court allows. My trusty roommate did some spectacular camera work and somehow managed to read my chicken scratch off a piece of paper to call out each exercise. Both acts are quite commendable. Also, I almost trip and face-plant at the 2:15 mark. This would totally lose style points in an actual pregame. Luckily I caught myself and crisis was averted. 

Some things I would add/change to the warm up or simply some more options based on equipment and needs of the athlete:

If I could get all the athletes a thera-band, I would include a bit more Glute activation with a Reverse Walk

For something more ground based but with the same intent (Glute activation), Side-lying clams

or Glute Bridge (with a nice modification for tight hip flexors)

For a little more upper body activation, I may include a Bilateral External Rotation Drill or Shoulder ‘W’ (Standing)

or Supine

As you can see, there are many roads to Rome, multiple ways to skin a cat, or any other analogy you want to use. The main points here are simple:

  1. Keep the warm up active. Pregame static stretching may have a place, I’m just not sure where.
  2. Make the exercises challenging enough that the athletes get a training effect but easy enough that they can all perform them.
  3. Work with the coach to get an idea of exactly what he/she is looking for. Some teams have certain warm up ideas that are almost a religious experience so completely turning the entire thing upside down may get you nowhere fast. Essentially, it’s all about compromise.
  4. Try and think in terms of movement patterns, NOT individual muscle groups as much as possible.
  5. If your team is playing against Chase Budinger, GET OUT OF THE WAY! 


One last thing: For all my classmates taking National Boards this weekend, good luck and remember… the right answers 🙂

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