Pre-season injuries can be devastating to your team and to your career. Long-term injury prevention (check out STACK's Guide to Injury Prevention) is an extensive process that must begin early in the off-season. However, you can still take proactive steps in the pre-season to fend off injuries with a progressive dynamic warm-up.
A dynamic warm-up includes athletic movements that increase body temperature, activate muscles and improve mobility, thus preparing your body before a workout, practice or game so that high intensity and fast movements do not cause shock to your body that may result in an injury.
A proper dynamic warm-up has several components that must be addressed. According to a 2009 article in the Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology and Arthroscopy Journal, these include plyometric, mobility, balance and flexibility exercises. To effectively prevent injury, the warm-up must also progress from simple to more advanced and athletic movements.
Follow this progression to construct a dynamic warm-up that will keep you healthy and performing at your peak.
- Perform dynamic exercises that involve both concentric and eccentric contractions.
- Avoid static stretches as they actually decrease subsequent performance. Perform them during your cooldown.
- Focus on small muscles and single-joint movements before large muscles and multi-joint movements.
- Perform slow movements first, since injuries often occur when a high-level movement is attempted before the body is ready.
- Perform Squats before Lunges, because the wider base offers more support and limits side loads on the knee.
- Maintain control throughout all movements, even if speed is sacrificed.
- To avoid knee injuries, ensure proper landing technique when jumping. Land softly with ankles, knees and hips in line.
- Perform two-leg plyometrics before single-leg plyometrics to reinforce technique and activate muscles before isolating each leg.
- Never sacrifice mobility for stability and vice versa
With continual use of a progressive dynamic warm-up, you will prepare your body for the season and avoid wear and tear injuries that can occur due to mobility issues or muscle imbalances. Although it might feel easy, or you might think you are wasting your time by not strength training or practicing, a proper warm-up is a critical component of your pre-season preparation. It cannot be ignored, or you may suffer the consequences.
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