Build a Warm-Up That Fits Each Athlete's Unique Needs
Warm-ups are a major part of playing sports for every athlete, but have you thought about how different warm-up routines are benefitting your athletes and setting them up to improve performance? Players aged 11-18 years old are more susceptible to muscle pulls when playing sports. Even kids below 10 have the same potential problem, requiring warm-ups uniquely suited for them. This is one reason why it is crucial to teach younger athletes the right way to stretch so it fully protects their muscles during active play.
But age isn’t the only factor to take into consideration when planning a pre-game routine for your athletes. Individual players may have particular physical issues needing special attention. Static stretches just won't cut it. So what can you do to provide better warm-ups for individuals? Here are some things to do to plan an athlete warm-up routine that fits individual needs from player to player.
Why it's Important to Create an Individualized Warm-Up
You may already have a recurring and generic stretching warm-up procedure for your entire group of athletes. This may involve standard jumping jacks, walking knee hugs, lunges, or squats.
While all of these are important for your entire team to warm up their muscles, some players may play more aggressively than others. In a baseball game, for instance, the pitcher is going to place more strain on their throwing arm than a catcher or base players would.
What's important is to look at the different roles your athletes play in the game and see what muscles get used the most. It's here where you can start to create a warm-up routine targeting those specific muscles for more elasticity in the tendons and ligaments.
For some athletes, these warm-ups may work more on a mental level as well as physical.
Some Highly Regarded Warm-Ups for Individuals
In the U.K., two doctors created a more individualized warm-up system called RAMP, an acronym for "Raise, Activate & Mobilize, and Performance."
For this routine, you focus on key areas pertaining to a particular athlete's playing needs. The "Raise" part of the warm-up involves exercises helping raise heart rate, blood flow, or joint viscosity to name just a few.
In a game where the athlete has far more physical exertion, Raise exercises can help immensely to prevent injury. It usually involves sprint drills, squatting, and lunging.
For the "Activate and Mobilize" program, you're going to use more warm-ups targeting specific muscle groups and key joints, as well as the range of motion. Doing these exercises can resemble rehabilitation for some of your young athletes who may already have injuries or trouble spots.
Here, you'll focus on balance work, plus spinal mobility exercises like extensions or rotations. These are just a few examples of what this important warm-up phase should include.
In the "Performance" stage, you'll hone in on exercises that impact how each athlete performs during play. High-intensity drills become utilized here to mimic specific plays during a game. Unilateral and bilateral jumping and short sprints are good examples to use here.
Individualizing the Warm-Up
With the warm-ups seen above generally used for athletes of any age, what about young athletes playing a game like baseball? Many youth baseball experts note how important it is for kids to warm up based on their specific position. A starting pitcher, for instance, may want to do no more than a few pitches pre-game to limber up their throwing arm. Anything more could cause a serious muscle tear.
Batters should go through the same procedure, but with poly balls being recommended for a safer practice session. Infielders should do catching practice, as well as throwing to bases to estimate throwing distance. Doing so provides a way to warm up their arms without overdoing it.
Be sure to think through the individual needs of athletes based on their position when it comes time to warm-up as demonstrated above. It is likely you’ve been using a similar warm-up routine for your athletes, for some time now. Take into consideration these tips, and consider re-evaluating your current athlete warm-up routine to improve your athletes’ experiences and performance!