What is this magic “Warm-Up” we talk about?
The program implemented at ABS comes from over 30 years of personal experience. Its origin stems much further than my personal experience and its sole purpose was to prepare the mind and body of high-performance athletes as well as the up and coming. 7 years old at 12h per week of training to 16 years old at 30h per week of training, we all did this warm-up.
At age 7, every single practice started with a “warm-up”. It was about 30min in length which consisted of many exercises that started from the head and worked its way down the body. We were told it was to get the blood flowing and to get the joints and muscles ready for the 6 apparatus we were excited to jump on to. Many of the exercises in the warm-up were impossible to perform as the coach was requesting and was a constant struggle between trying hard, scared of getting in trouble and surrendering an attempt of proper execution. This happened day after day and I wondered why we had to do it when we could of very easily just gone right to the apparatus. The struggle continued for several years and occasionally small improvements were apparent. There were good and bad warm-up days, stiff and sore days, tired and sluggish days and even scary days where the coach introduced new exercises or changed the expectations. It is also around this time that my fellow teammates and I, developed the ability to come up with the most incredible and believable excuses to try and get out of certain aspects of the warm-up. 95% of the time our coach didn’t buy our stories and we wondered how he knew.
As the years passed, our eyes started to opened as we discovered what our warm-up was really for. By this time, my teammates were national level and the warm-up was still annoying but accepted as something that had to be done. The 3 hours of training after the warm-up would be on a cycle of high intensity, tedious repetition of movement and figuring out techniques for skills on the apparatus as well as constructing routines. 5-6 days a week of this kind of training is tough on the body…. or is it? Add a full school course load and it sounds overwhelming.
Yes it is tough but 100% possible to do. Our team did it by having the right mindset and a strong support system formed by parents, coaches, teachers and other supporters that all worked together to tactfully coax us to a common goal. The support system allowed the mindset to be focused and sustained over long training hours for years while still maintaining a full school course load. So how is this related to the “warm-up” you ask?
As we got older and the daily warm-up no longer felt like a struggle, we realized that there is a strong relationship between the quality of the exercises performed in the warm-up to the quality and the productivity of the remaining training. This meant that the more focus and effort put into the warm-up, the better chance of having a great training. Everything we were told about the warm-up as youngsters was true with regards to circulation, body temperature, muscle and joint preparation but there was a more powerful factory at play which allowed to train at a high capacity and up to 30h per week. On a higher level of understanding, the series of exercises we were doing that is often downplayed, generalized and coined the term “warm-up” was the key to preparing the psychology for the core of the training. It’s a mind resetting and focusing technique.
So now with many great trainings under our belt over several years, our skills on the apparatus were also starting to improve quite rapidly. The skills needed to construct a routine can take many months to learn as well as the advanced skills that can take years. Once a skill was committed to by the coach and athlete, a program is put into place to learn that skills consisting of many different progressive exercises along with the number of repetitions associated with it and an explanation of the mechanics of the final skill. That’s just one skill though. There are about 10 potential skills on each of the 6 apparatus to work towards while maintaining all the fundamental skills on the apparatus as well. That’s a lot of exercising without ever attempting the final skills. To come in day after day, months or years without trying the final skill can be mentally draining but with a proven systematic training beginning with a consistent warm up, it’s possible to prepare for virtually any kind of high level skill and routines. This kinds of overall intense training sustained over years will develop important life skills such as willpower, confidence, mental toughness, patience, self-control and a sense of reality. On a physical level, there are huge physical gains in strength, flexibility, coordination, spatial awareness and stillness as well as understanding of complex skills, injury prevention and rehabilitation.
So the moral of the story is that there is an incredible hidden power in the series of exercises we call the “warm-up” which amplifies the change in temperature that the name implies.