Speed training: warm up exercises for sports involving speed and multi-directional agility

A warm-up focused on speed and multi-directional agility

by John Shepherd

Exercises geared to your sporting needs are more useful than non-specific ones, and the warm-up is no exception. John Shepherd has compiled a warm-up focused on speed and multi-directional agility

Objective: To prepare and develop the athlete for multi-directional speed and agility training/competition.
Time in training year: All year round.

Suitable for: All field and court players. Can also be used by runners of all speeds as a specific pre-conditioner. This is because the exercises will specifically strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments (soft tissue) for vigorous activity, reducing general and specific injury risk.
Spend time performing the drills where appropriate, initially at a low intensity, before increasing your speed.

Part A: Initial warm-up

Purpose: To raise body temperature and viscosity of muscles in preparation for progressive dynamic activity.

Do: 3-5 minutes’ jogging.

Part B: Dynamic warm-up

Purpose: These dynamic warm-up exercises are specifically selected to prepare muscles (and mind) for high-intensity, multi-direction speed training and competition.

Exercise 1:  Lunge walk with forward trunk reach

Purpose: To dynamically warm up back, hip flexors (muscles at the top of the thighs) and hamstrings.

Description: Take a large step forward into a lunge. Support your weight on the flat of your front foot and on the toes of your rear foot. Keep your trunk elevated and then reach forward, bending your trunk over your forward thigh, to take one elbow down to the inside of the same side’s ankle. Hold for a second and then pull your body back up to upright, before lunging forward with the other leg and repeating the exercise.

Technique tip: Bend forward from your hips taking your chest close to your extended thigh, before reaching down with your elbow.
Do: 4 x 15m.

Exercise 2:  High knee lift with tug

Purpose: To warm up the calf muscles, ankles and hip flexors.

Description: Walk forwards, lifting each thigh to a position parallel to the ground. When your thigh is parallel to the ground, gently pull on it to lift it a little. Do this by reaching forward with both arms and placing both hands below the thigh, just behind the knee.

Technique tip: Keep the chest elevated and extend your ankles, rising onto the balls of your feet, before reaching forward to take hold of the thigh.

Do: 4 x 15m.

Exercise 3: Press up walk

Purpose: To stretch the calf muscles, hamstrings and back.

Description: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then reach down in front of your legs, to place your hands on the ground (if your hamstrings are not flexible enough to allow this, bend your knees so that you can get your hands on the ground). Carefully support your weight through your hands and walk them away so that your body attains a prone (press-up) position. Perform one or more press-ups, then walk your hands back towards your feet, lifting your trunk at the last moment, to stand upright.

Technique tip: Perform the movement slowly and with control.

Do: 10 (with one press-up). As your fitness improves (and depending on your training needs) add more press-ups.

Exercise 4:  Sprint arm action from lunge

Purpose: To prepare the shoulders and arms for dynamic activity and develop good linear speed arm technique

Description: Assume a lunge position as for exercise 1. Keep your chest elevated and drive your arms backwards and forwards as if sprinting – maintain a 90-degree angle at your elbows throughout. The front arm’s hand should reach a position level with your eyes when swung forwards, while the upper arm should reach a position parallel to the ground behind your body when swung backwards.

Technique tip: Remain relaxed throughout the drill, as tension will impair speed. As this exercise is part of the warm-up, increase arm speed gradually.

Do: 4 x 20sec.

Part C: Preparatory exercises designed to prepare mind and muscle for rotational and lateral movement

Exercise 5: Sideways skips

Purpose: To warm up the lower legs and ankles and prepare the body for dynamic activity.

Description: Stand with feet beyond shoulder-width apart, with arms outstretched and parallel to the ground. Bend your knees (to approximately a 45-degree angle) and sit back. Move to the left (or right) by pushing from the balls of the feet to skip sideways.

Technique tip: Make the ground contacts light and dynamic.

Do: 4 x 20m (2 to the left and 2 to the right).

Exercise 6: Backwards running

Purpose: To improves ankle and lower leg strength and agility.

Description: Stand with your back to the direction of travel (check to make sure that there are no obstacles behind you). Keeping your legs relatively straight, and taking small steps, push from the balls of your feet to run backwards. Coordinate your arms with your legs (that’s opposite arm to leg).

Technique tip: Keep your head up and focus your gaze on something at eye level – doing this will help to keep your trunk upright and chest elevated.

Do: 4 x 20m.

Part D: Rotational drills

Exercise 7: Turn and run 15m

Purpose: To prepare for dynamic twisting and turning movements.

Description: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and facing against the direction of turn. To a command (or when you are ready), turn to run 15m. Keep low. Turn and pivot on the ball of the turning foot and drive your arms to add to your speed. Turn in opposite directions.

Technique tip: Concentrate on pushing the ground behind you, using strides of gradually increasing length – this is far more effective than reaching with your lower leg to pull yourself forwards.

Do: 6 (3 using a turn to the right and 3 with a turn to the left). 

Exercise 8: Decelerate and turn

Stopping quickly is an important part of all court and field sports. A great example is the tennis player who has to sprint to the net to return a drop shot stop and, perhaps, turn and sprint to retrieve a lob that has just been played by his opponent.

Description: Place a cone (or suitable marker) 10m away from your start position and another 5m further on. Run to the first cone and stop by the second to turn and then sprint back to the start. Coordinate your arms with your legs (ie, opposite arm to leg).

Technique tip: Leaning back into the deceleration will improve your stopping, as will applying more backward force into the ground through the balls of your feet.

See exercise 7 for specific turn and acceleration tips.

Do: 6 (3 using a turn to the right and 3 with a turn to the left).

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