How to perform a proper warmup is a most controversial topic in mass sports. As even sport scientists disagree with each other, the truth is not easy to be found and may be a search of its own. On the other hand, there is a good set of do’s and don’ts we can start working with building our own Jugger warmup experience.
Since my research for this issue was very ambiguous as well (my gymnast exercise instructor manual says otherwise than the sport science lecture of my university, which in turn says otherwise than experienced handball coaches), I will talk about warmup exercises and theory I found most beneficial for Jugger training sessions and tournament preparation.
Also, there is a lot of middle ground when it comes to transformation of established (or lack of) warmup in individual team training, where sub-optimal exercises can be a transition between two styles or an introduction for sport shy players and adverse veterans.
In this article, I’ll mostly refer to the Dynamic Warmup Routines for Sports from elitetrack.com, which I found to be a good boil down of the topic, without lacking dept or scientific sources and also being consistent with my experience with the requirements we have in Jugger sport. A good reading of this article is strongly advised.
Purpose of Warmup
Surprise: It’s your body being warm.
A warmer than average body temperature has a variety of beneficial effects on your performance. Mainly affecting your metabolic system in terms of energy supply (e.g. blood and therefore O2 and CO2 flow), waste disposal (anaerobic byproducts) and boosts your central nervous system (reaction, body coordination).
This has a number of beneficial effects on our Jugger sports-play. Not only are we now better performers from the first minute on that we are on the field, but also less susceptible to hazardous movements (remember? Warmup – better coordination – less injuries). On top of that, a stimulated nervous system gives us the advantage of faster reactions and a better coordination in all complex motions.
While this may not be a necessity for all kind of physical exercise you can encounter (a gymnast or marathon athlete has other requirements on his warmup), Jugger is a high intensity field sport and the warmup should be done accordingly.
Most people I met however, think of warmup as a stroll (aka jogging) around the field followed by (static) stretching. While this is better than nothing, it’s not enough to get the neat benefits stated above. Sadly, in reality it’s not so easily done. Especially when your team has already different rituals and structures – or worse: other opinions.
Introducing warmup to a Jugger team will most likely be joint with some resistance from player side and obstacles you have to overcome or compromise at some point. To convince your team to exercise a proper warmup (and everything that comes after), rely on your social skills as a coach. Try to organize and present solutions together with your team and not against it. The players will feel included and will more likely support your training style. You can’t coach against your team. This topic will have a full article later on.
Here are a few reoccurring challenges and possible solutions you may encounter when introducing or improving warmup to your training:
- Players are not in time. This is a warmup killer. When everybody comes to the training sessions at their own time, introducing a combined warmup is difficult. People will want to say their hello’s and exchange the latest gossip when meeting or just being late. Possible approaches are:
- Changing times: Players are to come at e.g. 18:45 for changing, training starts at 19:00 sharp. Everybody who’s late will have to do their own warmup. When everybody’s already in session when the latecomers arrive, it does wonders to player punctuality. Some players however will be late intentionally to cut warmup.
- Pre-Warmup: If you have the time: Do some (not too intense) exercises or training related games until the bulk of players have arrived for a combined warm up.
- Late-Penalty: Old School: Penalize players who are late without a heads up in advance with some (team-agreed upon) sanction. Can be funny (baking some muffins for next team sit-in) or training oriented (burpies, burpies and some burpies on top) penalties. This is dependent on the mentality of your team.
- Player refusal. “I’ve come by bike, I’m already warm”, “I played Jugger for #number of years, I’ve never needed warming up” or “You don’t do it right; you have to do such and that and I won’t do it otherwise” are only some excuses I’ve heart over the years.
- Convince them: Easily said, I know. Try to find the argument the player will listen to. Explain it to them why warmup is essential. Some players can be convinced with logic or (“It’s better because of “) emotionally (“Please support the team even if you have another opinion, it’s hard to change training structures.”) or with authority (“It’s safety first and good practice and if you don’t do it I can’t let you play first team/I can’t coach you because I’d be complicit in your injuries.”).
- Get the team behind you: If you can’t convince them, maybe teammates can. Or they will fall in line when the bulk of the team will do it. Or they just need to express their different opinion before they fall in line.
- Listen to them: Maybe he/she has a point or some knowledge to share. He doesn’t understand why warmup is important or why it has to be different from the known state. The player could have injuries or other illnesses you don’t know about or the physical level is too high.
- Start slow and improve: When I started introducing warmup to an existing team, some experienced players couldn’t run 300 meters without getting side stitches. Start on the performance level of your players and continuously improve on the exercises.
- Player Groups: Some players come for sport, some for socializing, but most players come to training for some combination of both. If you have an extreme heterogenical player base, a split between ambitious tournament players and “social optimizer” can make sense.
- Performance proxy: Start with the tournament team and implement your structural changes with them. When all the good and exemplary players will do it, you will have an easy standing extending it to the rest of your team.
- Lobby your reforms: Get the players to support your changes in the team before you introduce them to the team. Different players will listen to different arguments and when they know what’s coming they are more likely to support your claim.
It is important to do warmups regularly until the players are warming up themselves properly. It’s best when the players actually know what they are doing and that they are doing at least a basic warmup set when not supervised. Your warmup procedure can and should be varied and improved, unless it is really good and thorough. The latter will take a lot of time.
Crunch Question: Dynamic vs Static Stretching
I’ll try to write something like a stretching in a nutshell, but for a deeper understanding you should read yourself into the subject. It’s definitely worth a full article later on. Generally said, stretching is done to increase the mobility of your body and limbs. The more mobile, the less susceptible we are to injuries (as long as we have the muscle to stabilize) and the more agile we can perform. I’ll go into the two most commonly known techniques for stretching; dynamic and static.
Dynamic stretching is a stretch performed in a constant movement. By executing slow, controlled movements through (ideally) the full range of a certain motion sequence, our tendons, ligaments and muscles getting prepared for physical exercise. Dynamic stretches in general are not improving long-term mobility.
- performed mostly during warmup and before tournament games
- prepares the body for motion and exercise
Static stretching is done for preserving and extending our limb and body movement radius (again: tendons, ligaments and muscles). It is a must after heavy physical training to prevent muscle shortening. The theories that static stretching would reduce muscle tension or relax muscles have been scientifically disproved [cite missing], but your overall performance is slightly reduced. Therefore static stretches are best suited for cool down practices and individual problem areas.
- performed mostly in cool down
- preserves and increases mobility
- can relieve personal problem zones
In sports practice, a combination of static and dynamic methods is often executed. As each sport has individual stress bearing areas on the human body, a good warmup is suited for the subsequent exercise. Static stretching also can be good for people not previously engaged in sports, since injury prevention and body perception is more important than raw physical performance capabilities for them.
More detail about stretching and related topics will be presented in a separate article.
I’ll now open the exercise section of this blog and will fill it with warmup and cool down techniques of different teams over the time. Try out as many as possible to get a feeling for it and the need of your team. I obviously use the Warmup: Gnome-Up, which I will continue to develop for Jugger training and tournaments, based on my research and which is boldly stolen and patched together from all the good warmups I’ve encountered in my Jugger coaching years.