Principles and guidelines for an effective warm-up

Traditionally, a pre-training warm-up typically included a short period of low intensity exercise such as jogging followed by static stretching. Many coaches believed that this type of warm-up was helpful in preventing injury and in enhancing the subsequent sport or training performance. While this type of warm-up will elevate body temperature which is one important aspect of a warm-up, static stretching (as mentioned previously) can blunt and limit subsequent performance especially speed, power and strength related tasks which is not ideal for rugby training. This traditional type of warm-up is also very dull and boring which may not focus the players on the upcoming training session. Dynamic stretching is now recommended as the alternative to static stretching during the warm-up. If the goal of a warm-up is to prepare the child for the subsequent activity then several dynamic stretches as well as activities that mimic the main exercise or practice session should be dominant in the warm-up phase. The activities however, should be conducted at a lower intensity compared to the main activities and should be fun and engaging for the children. Some general guidelines that can be useful when trying to design an effective warm-up include:

  • Think of what will be needed in the main session and work backwards
  • Start with an activity the requires a broad base of movement skills
  • Included decision making in the warm-up activities
  • Include skill rehearsal in the warm-up activities
  • Gradually build up the intensity throughout the warm-up (Marshall, 2011).

The three key stages that might be included in a child’s rugby warm-up are:

  1. General Fundamental Movement Activity (a mini-game that is low to moderate in intensity) which allows practice of fundamental movement skills
  2. A dynamic stretching phase where several group stretches are coached and completed
  3. A movement activity that mimics the upcoming rugby training activity in terms of the movement and the intensity of effort.

The following sections will give examples of activities and exercises that could be used in stages 1 and 3 as dynamic stretching has been discussed already.