What’s in a Warm-Up?

With the season just around the corner, it’s a good time for coaches to re-visit how they structure their practices. Specifically, the warm-up and the role it plays in getting athletes ready for the session ahead.


Coaches are always in search of new activities that will allow them to improve their teams athletic performance. The warm-up, is without a doubt, the most important part of any activity.

With that being said, what is the most appropriate way to warm-up before a game? before a practice session? before a skills workout? before a strength session?

For years, it has been readily accepted to do a light jog for a few minutes, followed by some stretching (mostly static) and then this is followed by lay-up lines. In recent times, teams have replaced the light jogging with more dynamic movement, but again, this is right before the lay-up lines come in.

So, is this approach beneficial? Does it prepare your athletes for the activity that follows? Is there a different or more effective way to warm-up?

The warm-up is the first thing that players do as part of your practice session. This means that coaches can use the warm-up as the perfect way to set the tone for the rest of the session. Baring that in mind, do you not want to include or introduce a warm-up routine that is more productive to your practices, games, strength or skill sessions?

The main purpose of your warm-up is to get your players engaged and physically, mentally and emotionally ready to take part in the activity. A good warm-up allows athletes to be at their best for the session.

The warm-up comes in a couple of different phases.


The pulse raiser does the following:

  • increases blood flow to the working muscles in the body, which will aid in reducing muscle stiffness and help prevent injuries
  • increase muscle temperature ( a warmed muscle contracts forcefully and relaxes quicker, which allows speed and strength to be enhanced)
  • allows the blood vessels to dilate which reduces resistance to blood flow and reduces the stress on the heart.
  • increases blood temperature, which allows oxygen to unbind from haemoglobin a lot quicker, hence becoming more readily available to working muscles.



The second phase of the warm-up allows the body to prepare its muscles and joints in a manner that is more specific than static stretching. The workout, practice or strength session is going to consist of dynamic movements, so this phase allows the body to get accustomed to it.

A lot of teams and players still perform static stretching after the initial pulse raiser. This is counter intuitive as it allows the body to cool down which negates the benefits from the pulse raiser.

As the body will be going through a series of dynamic movements in the game, practice or workout that is about to follow, it makes more sense to conduct a series of dynamic stretches. Static stretching holds the muscles in a lengthened position over a prolonged period, which loses the elasticity of the muscle hence losing its explosiveness.

Dynamic stretching allows the athletes to keep moving, which means that they will maintain the benefits from the pulse raiser in addition to holding a stretch for 1-3 seconds, which lengthens and shortens the muscles. This allows the muscles to remain elastic and explosive.



The final phase of the warm-up is to conduct sports specific movements in a manner that will replicate the game. The purpose behind this is to emphasise the actions as it will happen in the following activity.

In games and practices, you will be taking a lot of shots, so it makes sense to include this in your sports specific phase of your warm-up. This helps reinforce the muscle memory required during the game.

A lot of teams still use this part of the warm-up to do two line lay-ups or three man weaves, which isn’t quite helpful (I explain my thoughts here). Most teams have different playing styles, so it makes sense to specialise this part to suit your team. Click here to read more.

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