Maximizing Space – Large Group Warm-Up Ideas

This article was recently posted in the IYCA Newsletter, and I thought plenty of other people would enjoy it, too.  So…..

When you’re training a large group with limited space, the session can get out of control right away if you try to use the same warm-up routine that you use with an individual. Instead, you should have a plan in place to keep things moving with more organization. Here are a couple of group warm-up routines that will help your session more organized.

The Hallway Warm-Up

Place two cones about 20 yards apart (or as far apart as you can). Have the group line up in a single file line. Everyone follows the leader down to one cone, around it, and back to the starting position. Imagine doing this in a hallway, where you’re running down one side of the hall and returning on the other. Continue in this pattern, changing the movement every time the leader returns to the start, but keep everyone moving the whole time. There is no need to stop.

In this formation, you can do just about anything you want, but here are some of the movements I suggest:

1. Jog
2. Backpedal
3. High-Knee Walk (knee hugs)
4. High-Knee Run
5. Butt Kicks
6. Skips
7. Power Skips (skipping as high as possible)
8. Monster Walks
9. Shuffle
10. Carioca
11. Lunge Variations
12. Foot Grabs (walking quad stretch)

You can also stop after every couple laps to do 1-2 stretches or you can go through all of the movements then perform all of the stretches together. Some of the stretches you might want to include are:

1. Arm Circles – 5 times forward, 5 times backward (large circles)
2. Trunk Twists – 10 twists
3. Perfect Stretch
4. Hip Flexor Stretch
5. Standing Hamstring Stretch
6. Calf Stretch
7. Standing Groin Stretch
8. Standing Quad Stretch
9. Inch-worms

Hip Flexor Stretch - Cliff AvrilI also like to add some line hops, burpees, mountain climbers, push-up variations and core work when we stop. This keeps everyone moving and gets some quality work done at the beginning of the session.

If you have enough space, and want to include a little conditioning at the end of this “hallway warm-up” an Indian Run (aka back-to-front run) is the ticket. This works particularly well for sports like soccer, lacrosse or basketball where you might want to increase the metabolic demand of the session. In this formation, the athletes will have to slow down at each turn and accelerate again to get to the front of the line, so it’s a great time to work on accelerating while already moving.

Most of the time, you’ll have the athletes run from the back to the front, but you can also have the first person in line take off and sprint ahead of the group until he/she catches up to the back of the line.

Big-Box or Criss-Cross Warm-Up

If you have more space, like a basketball court a bit of grass, I like to use this version of the above routine. This version also gives you the opportunity to dramatically increase the conditioning demand and progress the demand in a very simple and systematic way. In this version, create a large box that is about 20-25 yards per side, and place a cone at each corner. The four corners of a basketball court also work perfectly.

Have the group line up in a single file line and begin running around the outside of the box. You can stand in the middle and call out when to switch movements, but it’s typically done each time the leader passes the original starting point. Like the “hallway” warm-up above, you can either do all of the movements together then complete all of the stretches, or you can throw in a stretch or two between movements. Once all of the movements (jogging, backpedaling, shuffling, etc.) are done, begin the criss-crossing sequence.

Starting at one corner, having the athletes (still in a single-file line) run diagonally through the middle of the box to the far corner. Once past the corner cone, they turn to the left (or right) and walk the side of the box until they’ve reached the next corner. At that point, have them repeat the diagonal run, turn to the right this time and walk back to where they began. I like to go diagonally through the following movements:
– Sprint
– Backpedal
– Shuffle
– Power Skips
Repeat each movement twice at a very fast pace. They get to rest during each walking period.

When all of the movements are done, finish with some extra conditioning work by having them sprint the diagonal and jog the side of the box. No more walking at this point.

The line needs to stay tight during these runs so the leader doesn’t end up criss-crossing with the end of the line. Fast athletes should be allowed to pass slower athletes during each sprint so they can work as hard as possible.

Repeat this for as many reps as you’d like, depending on the group’s level of conditioning. Gradually progress the number of sprints performed to increase the amount of conditioning included in this routine. This is an easy way to slowly increase work capacity of the course of several workouts.

This formation is also perfect for including an Indian Run sequence around the box if you’d like to throw in some extra interval work. Both formations allow you to give plenty of instruction, feedback and motivation.

These two warm-up routines will keep you organized and looking like a pro when working with a large group.

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One Response to Maximizing Space – Large Group Warm-Up Ideas

  1. Ant June 12, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    When i was playing competitive football i had developed a short warm up before practice, which i still do before lifting. Athletic movements for my warm ups is the best thing I’ve done to keep my joints safe. Nice article and blog.

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