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Although the traditional warm up includes running related drills and skills, the coach doesn’t always take the opportunity to make the most of this time with their athletes. This is in terms of both coaching input and developing the athlete, not just technically, but physically as well. This physical development comes in the form of increasing their working capacity through utilising this portion of the training session where “it is training, disguised as a warm up”. This quotation comes from Loren Seagrave who is a well known visitor to the UK having delivered several workshops, keynotes speeches and conference sessions over the last couple of years. Loren’s ability as a coach and coach educator is fantastic and many of the drills and session formats which are now being utilised across the country are influenced by the work that Loren has been doing with coaches in the UK. Before we get to running drills and their application to training and technical development, let’s look at the warm up as a whole and what emphasis could and should be placed on it. Many coaches based in clubs will site a lack of time for the non-inclusion of seemingly new exercises, techniques and ideas, this is a valid point and one which allows an answer where no excuses can then be forthcoming - planning. Planning allows many different elements to be fitted into one training session by using one unit of training to prepare for the next. Careful planning allows the athletes to get through many different forms and types of training in the one session with the warm up acting as a vital catalyst to this process and setting up the rest of the session. The warm up should include exercises which will not only physically ‘warm up’ or raise the temperature of the working muscles and body as a whole, but allow suitable levels of neuromuscular activation around key joints, mobilisation of key muscles and ranges of motion and potentiation or priming the muscles. This can be referred to as a ‘RAMP’ warm up – Raise, Activate, Mobilise, Potentiate. In an article published by Ian Jeffreys in the UKSCA Journal in June 2007 he argues the case that this new classification of warm up can provide a framework around which to design warm ups for training and competition. It has been described as ‘movement preparation’ which would make sense in what the warm up is designed to achieve – prepare the body to optimally perform the movements of the upcoming activities. This means that exercise selection and routine of the warm up needs to tick each RAMP box as well as go from lower to higher intensity and go from general to more specific exercise selection. A key paragraph from the Jeffreys article states, “ To this end, planning of the warm up is as important as planning the main session itself. By carefully selecting activities, the warm-up can contribute greatly to the overall training programme, and should be in balance with the aim of the session, and the aim of the programme. To facilitate this, activities can be chosen which contribute to the aims of the overall session, and contribute to the aims of the given training cycle. In this way, a well planned warm-up is an extremely time effective method of including a number of key elements within a training programme, elements which may not be able to be included if they have to entail their own specific time frame. Most warm-ups will last from 10-30 minutes. Over a training cycle, that contributes a massive amount of training time, which, with effective planning, can be used to work productively on a range of areas, without increasing the overall training load.” Time and energy usage is therefore an important aspect of this type of warm up. As coaches we all follow this pattern in some way, shape or form, but the questions are: could it be better? Could it be more efficient? Could I achieve more from it? Going back to Loren Seagrave then, how does this relate to his philosophy? As mentioned earlier ‘disguising training as a warm up’ allows more productive work to be done. The exercises which can be chosen within the warm up sequence can be rotated to develop an increasingly large technical and physical skill base. The warm up can made longer or shorter depending on the time of year and particular needs of the athlete. The clever bit is using the warm up and being able to gradually increase the amount of work done in the warm up which adds to the athletes ‘working capacity’. This term is something which coaches are familiar with, and whether or not they use it in their coaching vocabulary, it is something that they are all trying to assist their athletes in achieving – the ability to adapt and handle more training – this may be in volume of training, intensity of training or in general ability to perform exercise. The warm up can therefore
provide some basis for this to occur by inclusion of a wide variety of physical and technical challenges before the athlete performs the main part or subsequent parts of the session. Often coaches look at developing capacity through pushing their athletes further and harder in the track work alone. This can be damaging at a young age and doesn’t assist in developing the all round abilities required at a young age as part of the developmental process of the athlete.
Take this thought a stage further. If the working capacity is assisted in being developed as part of the warm up routine, and not solely as part of the running session, then this means the running session doesn’t need to be as long, large or difficult. It means it can be more quality orientated - quality in terms of the speed the athletes can run and the technique they can perform the session with. Let’s bring in someone from outside of the coaching world to back up and promote this way of thinking. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” By allowing the athletes to do the right physical and technical work and skill based exercises in the warm up routine we are sharpening the axe in readiness to perform at the optimum level. It might take a bit more time and effort on both the athletes and coaches’ part, but look at the potential benefits in both the short and long term development of your athletes. Some practical examples: Female U17 80m Hurdles athlete. Trains 2/3 times per week. Example session – Duration 90mins 2 laps Jog and Skip Activation and Mobilisation exercises from warm up sheet (see below) Hurdle Walkover exercises 4/5 exercises over 6/8 hurdles increasing speed and specificity of movements Weightlifting Skills – bar drills learning basic of squats and Olympic lifts Running & Coordination Drills – 4/5 drills over 15-30m mixing in running strides between drills or drill directly into stride Accelerations over 15-25m from various starting positions Hurdling – some skills work with isolation and 5 strides followed by 3 stride runs over 3-6 hurdles with adjusted spacings Speed Endurance – using short distances with short recoveries eg 3x60m with 60sec recovery repeated 2 times with 8-12mins recovery Then either: Med Ball Throws Circuit – power development Core Circuit – general strength exercises for trunk Barbell weights – slightly slower and heavier exercises not done pre-running eg squats, lunges with light barbell Would you believe we can get through this in 90 minutes? Where does the warm up end and the session begin? By being planned it is a pretty straightforward process and the athlete will always get through 7-9 different units of work within the session. A lot of time spent sharpening the axe – but when she runs, she runs fast and has the recoveries required to allow this to happen. This is week 1 of the training year in October 2010 which my group of athletes completed. They are aged 18+ and have some training history – normally 2-4 years. Many of the athletes in week 1 I had not yet met or coached. Each day they did some jogging and skipping at the start of the session including multidirectional jogs, crossovers, backwards etc. This was followed by a small number of set mobilisation and activation exercises which they were coached in as they learned the techniques. Then they performed various running and coordination drills which they were taught and coached in.
On one day I introduced some skipping drills with a skipping rope, on another the very basic low level pre-cursor drills to plyometrics. On another day I did some basic physical competency testing. On another i introduced some technique for acceleration start positions. This was followed by some basic tempo runs of 100m to 200m on the track or grass with a total volume of about 1500m – 1800m. Finally they finished with flexibility and foam roller. What did this do for the athletes? Allowed them to touch on several different aspects they will be using in the coming weeks of training and learn many of the techniques they will be using. What did this do for me as the coach? Allowed me to assess each athlete. This was either formally with testing, or informally with observation of their movements on the various activation and mobilisation exercises, as well as the running drills. I got to learn what I had to work with! At the end of the week I handed the athletes the sheet below and talked through it as their warm up routine. By this point they knew all the exercises and were ready to start using them. I wouldn’t say its definitive and it’s certainly a work in progress and will change with new exercises as I see where changes are needed and learn new exercises to put into the routines to keep it moving forward and fresh and challenging. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5qQI5LIvtc for a video of some of the possible exercises that can be used. The sequencing of the RAMP warm up allows the athletes to mix and match exercises which activate, potentiate or mobilise while at the same time increasing temperature of the muscles. Towards the end of a warm up section the more specific exercises can be done. For track sessions these will be the running drills. They will more specifically activate, potentiate and mobilise to finish off the process of working towards the optimum speed, intensity and range of motion required for the running activities. All of the drills should have a purpose and the athletes should learn where they fit with regards to the movement patterns they are looking to develop, progress and refine. Drills in themselves will not make the athletes a more efficient running machine. The application of the drills and a deliberate transfer into running performance is what is required in order to be successful. Too often drills are left as a separate entity, worked on in isolation. This is not a successful method if improved execution of running performance is to be gained from a skill transfer from drills. There is some debate about the relative value of doing drills and their transfer and therefore impact on running performance. My opinion is that a well thought out choice of drills, performed regularly with coaching input and a speedy transfer into running will get the best results. Athletes will learn what to do, how to do it and where it applies to running performance a lot better with coaching input and athlete education. Some key positions to consider when performing drills: Foot dorsiflexion – early dorsiflexion after toe off and maintenance of dorsiflexion through the recovery phase. Triple flexion versus triple extension – synchronised triple flexion of the ankle (dorsiflexion), knee and hip will bring the knee forward quickly while at the same time getting the heel under the hips to maximise the amount of flexion without too much ‘backside’ mechanics. Triple extension is the opposite where force is imparted to the ground through a powerful extension of the ankle, knee and hip. This is where the ‘stiffness’ of the joints is required and this can be rehearsed in drills. Optimal knee height and shin angle – the knee coming through to a position in front of the hips and the lower leg following through and opening out to the point where the shin is perpendicular to the floor. For further information on www.uka.org.uk/coaching running mechanics see resources available on ucoach –
Therefore drills which prepare the foot for ground contact, those which promote triple flexion and extended joint stiffness and rehearse the optimum angles of the hip and shin should be the
most frequently used. My personal thoughts are that running drills can used in two main ways: to develop a more efficient motor pattern through repeated practice and rehearsal; to activate, mobilise and potentiate. This means that a different emphasis could be placed on the drills by having a skill development part to the weekly training where longer and more concentrated time is spent improving the drills while then utilising these improved abilities while using the drills to mobilise, activate and potentiate for the activity to come. The overall message is to think about what you are doing and where in the training process you are using it to achieve the desired effects and outcomes. Wasting time and energy on exercises or drills which are not done with attention to detail, quality of movement or a valid reason for performing it then we are doing a dis-service to our athletes.
WARM UP ACTIVITIES
Video of Mobility & Activation Drills available at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5qQI5LIvtc WARM UP ROUTINE
2-3 LAPS EXERCISES MOBILITY EXERCISES JOG & INC JOGGING
COORDINATION & RUNNING DRILLS (INC LINE DRILLS) STRIDES & ACCELERATIONS (TRAINERS INTO SPIKES)
HIGH KNEE WALK HIGH KNEE SKIP HIGH KNEE RUN SL HIGH HEELS/HIGH KNEES CONTINUOUS HIGH HEELS/HIGH KNEES SMALL CIRCLES - ANKLES MEDIUM CIRCLES – CALVES LARGE CIRCLES – KNEES STR LEG BOUND SKIPPING ROPE DRILLS/RUNS
ALL EXERCISES FROM THIS SECTION
COACH or SELF DIRECTED SELECTION
SIDE SKIPS CROSSOVERS SKIPS ZIG-ZAG OVER LINE ZIG-ZAG BETWEEN LINES BWDS SKIPS BWDS RUNS COORDINATION & RUNNING DRILLS
COACH or SELF DIRECTED SELECTION
FWDS-BWDS 1234 SIDE-SIDE STEP OVERS DOUBLE FOOT HOPS FWDS-BWDS DOUBLE FOOT HOPS SIDE-SIDE HIP TWISTS X DRILL DBL FOOT ZIG-ZAG FWDS-BWDS SIDEWAYS SHUFFLE
MOBILITY & ACTIVATION
2-4 EXERCISES FROM EACH SECTION
CRAB WALKS CARIOCA KNEE TO ELBOW FOOT TO HAND PRONE HAMSTRING CURLS PRONE GLUTE CROSSOVERS FIRE HYDRANT SERIES HIGH KNEE EXTENSION WALKS LOW LUNGE WALK FWDS LOW LUNGE WALK BWDS SIDE LUNGE AND DRAG LUNGE CIRCUIT FWD/BWD LUNGES CROSSOVER REV LUNGE SQUATS WIDE OUTS SQUAT THRUST SERIES SINGLE LEG FWD BOWS FINGER-TOE BACK MOBILITY CAT STRETCHES HURDLE LEG EXCHANGE SCORPIONS QL WALK FWDS QL WALK BWDS
PLANK HIGH KNEES STRAIGHT LEG UP & OVERS SIDE PLANK TURNS SIDE PLANK HIGH KNEE-LEG LIFTS ALT ARM-LEG ALEKNAS INCH WORM KNEELING ADDUCTOR STRETCH INVERTED LATERAL SCISSORS INVERTED GRASS CUTTERS INVERTED SCISSORS STANDING HIP CIRCLES SIDE-SIDE LEG SWINGS BENT TO STRAIGHT SWINGS STRAIGHT TO BENT SWINGS SUPINE HIP CIRCLES IN & OUT SUPINE HIP CIRCLES OUT & IN
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