By Martin Poirier, Maverick Volleyball Trainer for Competitive and High Performance Teams
Efficient mobility throughout the different joints of the body is very important for human health and performance throughout a lifetime. Not only limited to athletes, developing effective joint mobility and stability in the general population can help optimize the quality of life.
In a sport specific context, increasing an athlete’s ability to move efficiently at the ankle, at the hips, at the thoracic spine, at the scapula and at the gleno-humeral joint (shoulder joint) while developing stability at the foot, knee, lumbar spine (lower spine), scapula and elbow, decreases the likelihood of injury while increasing the potential of performance. As advocated by many renowned strength trainers, an effective warm-up can help athletes perform at their best in any given sport. On too many occasions, I witness athletes enter the gym and jump right into a workout or into a practice without taking the time to warm-up! Not only is this detrimental to their overall performance, it places them at a much greater risk of acute and/or chronic injuries.
An efficient warm-up helps elevate whole body temperature, increase blood flow to active muscles and enables athletes to prepare their muscles and joints to work through the full range of motions they will be implying in the practice of the sport. In order for this to happen, athletes must activate the muscles used in the various techniques as well as perform exercises in the three planes of motion. For those who are not familiar with muscle activation, it can be defined as the brain’s capacity to recruit the muscle fibers within a given muscle during specific movements. If some muscles are not activated and ready to perform, other muscles and articulations will have to compensate, and you guessed it, could have some negative ramifications over time.
When designing a functional warm-up for a training session, a practice and/or a competition, it is of importance to take into account the specific movements that the athlete will perform. A volleyball player must be able to jump, swing and change direction on numerous occasions during play.
I believe we can all agree that from childhood to adulthood, athletes have to go through a lengthy development process. As they grow into their bodies, it is imperative for everyone to learn proper movement mechanics. If athletes don’t practice specific movement patterns and address weaknesses such as lack of flexibility (poor range of motion), muscles imbalances etc., they will most likely encounter unwanted injuries and/or never reach their full athletic potential. Our body adapts to the stresses that we place on it every day. If a functional warm-up is performed prior to every practice, game and training session, the repetitions will add up and develop better all around athletes.