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It’s pretty much accepted in athletic training circles to go through a thorough warm-up prior to training or competition. I mean other than the meat heads that do their beach workouts, most athletes will spend some time warming up. In the industry we are all aware that warm-ups are beneficial for a number of reasons but until you actually compare a workout with and without a thorough warm-up it can difficult to tell the difference. This was the case last Saturday when I met some hockey players for a sand dune conditioning workout.

One of the players had asked to leave early for a previous commitment. It was a family commitment and he did ask ahead of time so I thought I would allow it this time. Now we wouldn’t have a lot of time to workout so we got right to it.

Before I carry on I have to say that I definitely don’t advocate training without a complete and thorough warm-up. And by warm-up I mean foam rolling, general warm-up on a bike or a light jog, a dynamic warm-up, some mobility drills for the ankles, hips and t-spine, some core activations and anything that may be necessary to get everything ready to do some work.

As well, we went straight into the workout because I know this athlete, I know how his body moves, I know his fitness level and his training history. Combine this with the fact the sand dunes would be uphill and thus take out the effects of gravity. As well the soft, deep sand cushions his strides as he climbs the hill.

So we proceeded into the workout. Again we are in a conditioning phase of the training so nothing was explosive or high tempo. Basically just an early morning workout that is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I say that because at the bottom of the dune the heart rate begins to climb before we’ve even taken one step. The sympathetic nervous is doing its job and heart rate begins to climb as a result.

As we round the top of the dune I make of the players’ time and we begin the descent down gravel path back to the start. The one player heads off for his function and we meet up with the rest of the group just showing up.

So some of players in this first group are going to do the climb a second time. They didn’t know this was the plan. And they don’t like the idea of doing it a second time. They did the first climb as though it was the last difficult training task for the day and weekend. Now they find out they have to do it all over a second time.

For the second attempt we run back up the gravel path for a few minutes. For there we get into a dynamic warm-up, some leg swings, a few skip drills and finish with some acceleration drills. After walking back to the start it’s time for a quick sip of water and ascent number 2.

On the second attempt the group averaged 15% faster than the first attempt. I was shocked! I didn’t expect the effects of a proper warm-up to transfer so effectively to a conditioning workout. Especially on a pre-fatigued group. Usually in the literature the benefits are portrayed as the ability to generate power. For example, a quick check of the recent research articles put out by the NSCA looks at the effect of dynamic warm-ups on jumping, agility, sprinting or anything else that is powerful and of short duration. Basically the exact opposite of a sand dune workout.

So what’s the point of all this? Well basically it reaffirms what we are doing. And it reinforces the necessity of dynamic warm-up prior to all training. I’d also go so far as to say that if pressed for time I would ensure a thorough warm-up at the expense of cutting a set or two on the training room floor rather than vice versa.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                             onsidehockeytraining.com

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