Should the warm-up be used just to raise body temperature, increase range of motion and slowly prepare the body for the training? Or can we be more productive with our warm-up? Can we actually initiate the perceptual process and start to get our athletes more in-tuned to perceptual information?
I say yes!
As we’ve established, one of the most important skills for sport performance is the ability to perceive key kinematic information. So wouldn’t it be wise to give our athletes as much exposure to this as possible?
We use our warm-up as a means to give opportunities to perceive and act in a controlled and simplified environment. It is a foundation to the more advanced and chaotic environments they’ll be exposed to later in our training.
This doesn’t have to be complicated or advanced, simply take many of the movements you’re already doing (Shuffles, Angled Shuffles, Skips, Crossover Runs, Bodyweight Squats, Bodyweight Lunges) and just add a stimulus.
What’s great is when you watch closely, you’ll see athletes employ strategies for scanning and you’ll notice they learn (on their own) where to look and what body parts to focus on.
Higher skilled athletes have more efficient visual search strategies, spend more time fixating on important kinematic information, search more systematically, and focus on the critical information to predict movements (Mann et al. 2007).
Our athletes are now competing and intentful during warm-ups. We’ll have athletes telling their partner they’re predictable, that they can read them. That is great feedback and something that makes athletes aware of their movement strategies on a very basic level. If an athlete’s body language gives away their next move, that’s a major advantage for the opponent!
You can’t beat a warm-up that prepares athletes for these perceptive and reactive strategies. The idea of a competitive warm-up might sound like an oxymoron at first, but when you build the competition around perception and reaction rather than top speed or strength, you create a warm-up that both effectively prepares the athletes for training and increases these important skills.
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