The goal of the warm-up is to optimally prepare your body for physical activity, which will allow you to get the very best from your training session or match ahead. In such a demanding, high-intensity sport as squash, it’s a key part of the performance puzzle.
A properly designed warm-up will raise the body temperature and increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the working muscles, inducing physiological changes that optimise the function of both the cardiovascular system and of the muscles themselves – combining to give you a crucial physical boost.
Studies from sports science researchers have shown that a properly implemented warm-up can have a significant positive effect on subsequent physical performance. Try to move beyond thinking about the warm-up solely in terms of helping to ward off injury – with appropriate diligence it can actually help make you a better athlete, by optimising your speed, power, and endurance.
The warm-up also serves an important psychological function. Establishing your own personal warm-up procedure before you play/train, is a great way to establish a familiar routine and thus allow you to focus your attention on better preparing your mind for the game or workout ahead – for a match this may be mentally reviewing your tactics for your upcoming opponent, or if you’re working on your Zero to Hero drills it’s an opportunity to concentrate on the element(s) you’re aiming to improve in that particular session.
An effective warm-up then should consist of 3 parts that flow organically – an initial pulse raiser, a stretching/mobilisation component, and a secondary/specific pulse raise. The RAMP protocol is a great way to remember this: Raise, Activate-Mobilise, Potentiate/Perform.
The initial pulse raiser is the start of your warm-up and usually consists of some light movements and footwork patterns – this can be things like light jogging, skipping, sidesteps, and lateral shuffles.
The next section is to activate relevant muscle groups and mobilise key joints. The drills contained in this section should be movement based – research suggests that for optimal physical preparation, stretching should be active as opposed to passive activity. The idea of sitting and holding ‘static’ stretches is generally outdated, and some research suggests that static stretching may even actually reduce performance.
The aim of this final phase is to ‘prime’ the body for the forthcoming session or competition, through more specific, higher intensity drills. The term ‘potentiate’ refers to actions that improve effectiveness, and in the case of the warm-up involves the selection of activities that will help enhance subsequent performance – drills such as jumps, sprints, shuttles, and fast paced skipping.
Ideal warm-up duration will generally vary by individual, though research suggests the optimal length for the active portion of a warm-up is around 15mins. An over-long warm-up may needlessly deplete energy stores and negatively affect performance, so make sure to refine your routine to your own levels of fitness and conditioning.
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