The warm-up in cricket, as in any sport, is an integral part of the training process. It is not simply an activity coaches should deliver because we are told to, nor is it the front door to the training session itself - but how much emphasis should coaches’ place on a warm up?
It is true that the warm up acts as the ground work for the training that is to follow. But it can also be used to influence genuine progress for young cricketers. A warm up can accomplish more than just warming-up.
WARM-UP TO IMPROVE MOVEMENT
During the cricket season, and for many cricketers the off season as well, warm ups are done nearly every day in some way or another - a young player may play school, club and district cricket, and may also play other sports, all of which are likely to include warm ups.
If coaches recognise this we should also recognise the benefits of including elements of performance training into the warm ups – creating greater exposure for the important stuff, and movement quality is hugely important in cricket.
Mobility exercises and drills could be inserted after the dynamic portion of the warm-up, once blood flow has been redistributed to the skeletal muscles and core body temperature has increased. In this way, the typical structure to the warm-up could be replaced with more goal-oriented mobility or stability drills. This adjustment could be made in both the individual and in the team setting.
An easy way to give players more experience with new movement is to add it into the warm-up. But, this isn’t about exposing them to the movement just for the sake of mindless experience. The movement must be as crisp and clean as we can make it. Therefore, coaching must be thorough with a focus on quality even if it is “just” a warm-up.
The warm-up is a great way to increase frequency and volume of movement and drills that matter the most.
WARM-UP AS CONDITIONING
For any cricketer that struggles with general fitness, the warm-up can be an effective, non-intimidating, and quite possibly an inviting way of building a base of general physical preparation and fitness.
To get the desired results it shouldn’t be just any old warm-up. It must actually be challenging, and it will most likely need to be extended. For example coaches could prepare multiple dynamic-based movements, while introducing mobility-based movements. In this way, the cricketer can get a challenge aerobically without exhausting or fatiguing.
Do cricketers and coaches pay enough attention to the warm-up? Do coaches utilise it and reinforce its value to their players?
In some cases both the player and coach require a change – one that places an emphasis on the warm-up as a tool to improve performance, rather than as an obstacle that must be hurdled to get to the rest of training.
The warm-up can be used to improve many aspects of performance, such as movement quality and conditioning. All players and coaches should appreciate the benefits and agility of an efficient warm-up.