PRIME Your Body: The Ultimate Warmup
For years, we have heard the phrase “Make sure you stretch.” This “stretch” would usually involve athletes sitting down in some form of a circle, and holding positions for 20 seconds. Everyone has seen it. Everyone has done it.
Is this really the best way to get prepared for practice or performance? Simply put, HELL NO! But what should your pre-performance warm up actually look like? If peak performance is our goal, we must prepare our body to move and function at the highest level possible.
What is Priming?
Let’s start with basics. I like to use the word “priming” to describe pre-performance activity.
I feel this is the best way to describe the broad range of pre-performance techniques athletes can use to prepare. Priming techniques should include mobility practice, static and active stretching, and max effort dynamic movement based drills and everything in between! This article will discuss this process and what to include in your pre-performance and warm up routines.
Mobility exercises are those designed to enhance active, usable range of motion and control. The highest levels of performance require adequate mobility of the spine, shoulder girdle, hips, and other prime movers of the body. Range of motion without stability and control is useless and can be more of a liability than a strength.
Here are a couple of my favorite mobility priming movements:
These are the “Old Faithful” techniques that have been used for ages. You can stretch most muscle groups using a static hold. Those performed by holding certain positions for a specific period of time are called STATIC stretches.
Static stretching is ideal for making gradual but significant muscle length changes over time. Holding stretches for 30-60 seconds each on a daily basis has been shown to promote true lengthening of the muscles. This occurs through an inhibitory or calming reflex that allows the muscle to gradually ease into a lengthened position.
When movement is included, and a joint, or group of joints are being taken through its range of motion, the term used is DYNAMIC stretching.
Dynamic flexibility on the other hand is more useful as an immediate pre-activity muscle stimulator. By moving the muscle through its available range of motion, the muscles get neurologically primed for the activity ahead.
How Do I Know Which Techniques to Use?
Knowing what techniques to use based on the activity you are going to carry out is crucial in maximizing not only your movement quality and efficiency, but also your time constraints. The same priming routine used before a light auxiliary lifting session is going to look quite different from a priming session before a pitcher begins his bullpen work. It is not only important to assess what type of movement is required of your performance activity, but also the tempo, volume, and duration of your activity.
How Long Should I Prime For?
Now that you have an understanding of how to prime, you should know how to efficiently prime! For you coaches: I know you have all seen young teams go out to “stretch” and come back after 3 minutes saying “We’re ready!” Players: you’ve all done it! I not only shake my head, but I also cringe, when I see this. I get it. Priming isn’t cool. It’s not fun. But it is necessary. Period. If done properly, your shorter priming sessions should last no longer than 5 minutes and our longer sessions should last no longer than 15-20 minutes.
If you are taking too much longer than that, you may be “overdoing” it. The end goal should be maximize your performance potential by preparing your body. Prime for movement!
If you are a player looking for a quick way to enhance your game, check here first. Give yourself a chance to perform and compete. Prepare. Prime. If you are a coach trying to minimize injury and efficiently ensure that your team is ready to go, review your priming and make necessary changes. Believe it or not, your players may actually respond well to some change.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave is a graduate from Piedmont College, where he was a member of the NCAA baseball team. Dave spent his first two years of college playing baseball in Columbus, OH at Capital University. Upon graduating from Piedmont, he has spent his time working as a coach and strength training specialist at the Collegiate and High School level.
Dave is currently working with the Ninth Inning baseball academy in Atlanta, Georgia coaching and strength training with some of the nation's top high school athletes. Known for his superior work ethic on and off the field, Dave has devoted nearly a decade to coaching and researching the major aspects of baseball performance: hitting, throwing, and running. His main goal is to use his extensive knowledge and background in strength and baseball performance training to give his athletes a competitive edge in enhancing their on-field performance.