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Movement Preparation

How to prepare to perform
Posted by Nick Grantham

Jogging, cycling or jumping rope doesn’t prepare you to perform.

You’ve heard the phrase you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Every training session is a bit like that. It’s vital that you set the tone straight from the off! I’m amazed at just how little thought seems to go into most warm ups. We’ve all seen it, the coach sending the team off to jog some laps, or the personal trainer sitting the client on a bike for 5 minutes before the training session. It’s just not good enough.

Traditionally warm ups are considered a necessary evil and a bit of a hassle, ‘let’s just get through this so that we can start training properly’.Most traditional warm ups focus mainly on the temperature-related mechanisms and involve basic activities that require movement of the major muscle groups of the body, such as jogging, cycling, or jumping rope (skipping).

However, preliminary exercise should prepare the body not only physiologically but also psychologically.

Forget About Warm Ups…from now on I want you to think of Movement Preparation.

Movement preparation encompasses technical reinforcement of fundamental movement patterns, promotes cognitive thought processes that are critical to body awareness, emphasises the expression of movement speed on the force-velocity continuum, and finally it creates variety and interest that will engage athletes/clients.

Oh… it also increases your core temperature and gets a bit of a sweat on!

Physical Responses to Movement Preparation

Movement preparation initially increases tissue temperatures throughout the body, which in turn causes a rise in whole body core temperature.  This increase in temperature is brought about by:

  • friction between muscle fibres during muscular contraction
  • dilation of intra-muscular blood vessels
  • redistribution of the circulation, and finally
  •  the breakdown and metabolism of fuels during exercise.

An increase in whole body temperature allows the muscles and joints to move optimally, reduces the resistance to blood flow throughout the body so that blood can then be easily distributed to the working musculature and improves nervous activity leading to improvements in the rate of muscular contraction, reaction times, and the overall control of whole body balance and motor function. Finally, from a cardiovascular perspective, temperature is central to the rate at which oxygen can be released from the blood and delivered to the working muscles.

And you thought it was just about getting a sweat on!

Psychological Responses to Movement Preparation

Peddling on a stationary bike, jogging round a football field, or sitting down performing static stretches are not particularly mentally stimulating activities! However, I still see athletes and gym-goers alike adopting such approaches to their pre-exercise preparations on a regular basis. These activities are‘easy’ to perform and in most cases don’t require much thought.

I personally want my athletes and clients mentally ‘dialed in’ and ‘switched on’ at the start of the training session. It’s an absolute must in my books to work on elevating the cognitive function of the body, placing value on developing the alertness, acuity, and mental arousal needed to focus the athletes mind.

Complex tasks used as movement preparation can serve to promote a number of cognitive functions.

  • Neural activity within the brain is elevated, and the higher centres of the brain are stimulated above resting levels.
  • Activation of the brain centres required for motor function gives a cognitive focus to kinesthetic feedback. As an athlete begins to become aware of what a given movement feels like, he/she can then go about changing components of that motor function in order to execute the motor task more efficiently or effectively. Kinesthetic movement patterns can then be rehearsed, with the mind becoming intimately associated with the quality of the performance outcome.
  • Stimulating the mind through more complex movement preparation tasks often allows for‘technical reinforcement’of an activity and/or movement patters that will be experienced in an ensuing activity.
  • Effective use of the movement preparation time will elevate the psychological focus of an athlete, allowing them to enter into their training session with a mental state that is conducive to optimal performance. Performing semi-complex movements, such as those utilised in the P2P approach to movement preparation will promote this mental focus.

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