Thursday, 24 September 2009

How to warm up: Improve your performance & avoid injury with a good warm-up.

Warming-up - the basics - by Jonathan Barnes

So many people don't bother with warming-up and usually, it really is a case of "I can't be bothered". Well, more often than not, that person is the one who lost the first game and then pulled out injured! It is such a great weapon to go on court and from the first rally, show your opponent you're ready for a battle (particularly if they haven't warmed up)! The benefits of warming up are irrefutable, it increases performance throughout the match (and particularly at the start), helps prevent injury and is also a great opportunity to get focused and mentally prepared for the game.

The "I can't be bothered" excuse is the lamest of them all, but another that often comes out is "but I'll be knackered for my game" and my answer to that is: "Toucher!". This can be true, if you warm-up badly you could easily just tire yourself out, so let's learn to do it properly. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you should have grasped the basic theories behind a good warm-up and will understand the following 3 major benefits: 1/ Improved physical performance 2/ Injury prevention 3/ Mental preparation.

An example:
If you've ever watched the pre-match coverage for any football match (or simply played football), you'll have noticed that between Richard Keys left shoulder and Andy Grays right shoulder you'll notice that the players are just running backwards and forwards down the width of the pitch. You may even notice there just having a chat most of the time (this is relevant!). Richard and Andy move on to a few highlights of past matches and when they return, the players are now doing side steps as well. A Ford advert later and you'll see that their all pretending to do headers without the ball and then sprinting off into the distance. Finally, for the last piece (once you've "The time is now" by Moloko for the 10th time!) you'll see the players passing the ball around and also doing that exercise where one poor chap is in the middle and has to intercept the ball whilst his mates refuse to give it to him (It's a millionaire's version of piggy in the middle!).

- General to Specific to Functional -
Well all that isn't just thrown together. At the start the players are doing a general warm-up, they aren't playing football, there just running a bit, getting their heart rate up slowly and gradually, then they start to do some football specific movement like the pretend headers (sounds like ghosting to me!) and shuttle runs and then they start to actually play football and repeat scenarios that will occur in a game (this is the functional stage). This progression helps the body get ready slowly without a shock to the system but also means that mentally the player can prepare for the game ahead, they can visualise the situation (without the ball first) and then put it into practice afterwards (add the ball). In Squash, we go through the same progression. A warm-up always starts with running, then some ghosting to get the footwork right and to visualise the shots you will be performing during the match and finally you will have the on court warm-up.

- Long, Progressive & Adapted -
If we go back to the football analogy we had earlier, I said the players were just having a chat. The reason I mention that is because the start of the warm-up is quite slow and gradually will speed up, this is so the body can progressively get ready but also so that the mind can get into match mode. This is why at first you can relax, just get ready for the game and then gradually start doing shorter faster/sharper sets of work, so that when the bell rings, you're ready as if it were 10 all, 5th game! So in Squash, we will often start with a long jog, before doing some very slow ghosting sets and then finally doing some very short sharp sets to be able to take the ball early from the start.

- Mentally -
I think the most important piece of equipment a Squash player can own is (a pair of shoes, shorts and a racket and ball obviously) an iPod (depending on what you have on it, some need not bother)! Listening to music before a game is a great way of being separated from your surroundings and being able to be completely focused on your game. Why not start with some slightly slower music when getting ready and then as the match gets closer some songs that trigger memories of big games or maybe some faster, heavier songs (Eye of the tiger!) as the match gets nearer. Most players seem to have a solid warm-up routine (Nick Mathews likes to listen to Kings of Leon before a game) that gets them completely focused and pumped up before a game, and if you manage to spot a player walking around before a game, they are usually on their own and would like it to remain that way, so don't go chatting with them! Teddy Sheringham used to have a brand new pair of socks for each game and some players always put the same shoe on first. These are all little habits that get the player into that place they want to be in before a game.

So next time you have a game, put your iPod on, drink plenty of water, have a few Jaffa Cakes (low in fat) and warm up very gradually, starting with some slow general movement, then some ghosting before ending with some intense stuff whilst listening to some Electro (Trash by The Whip)!

But the most important note of all, is that a warm-up is personal, it varies from person to person! So make up your own, personal routine (apparently the great Peter Nicol used to listen to classical music)!

All the best,

Jonathan Barnes


Phone - 07725 817 387