HEALTHAGENDA

Netball

Warm-up tips for netball lovers

According to experts, taking the time to warm up before you exercise can enhance performance and help reduce the risk of injury.

Finding time to exercise can be tough. If you’re short on hours it might be tempting to skip the warm-up in favour of a few more minutes on the netball court, some extra reps in the weight room, or one more lap around the running track.

But, according to experts, warming up is a critical part of preparing your body for exercise. Without it we increase our risk of post-workout muscle soreness and more serious injuries that could put a stop to any exercise while we recover.

For gym-goers, social netball players and everyone right up to elite athletes, if your goal is to reduce your risk of injury or perhaps improve performance, warming up should never be seen as an optional extra.

What does a warm-up do?

As the name suggests, warm-ups help warm and prepare your body for the way it needs to move during sport or exercise.

While there is no definitive proof that warming up stops injuries from occurring, research suggests it’s still smart to warm up before moderate- to high-intensity activity.

“When we warm up, we’re literally elevating the temperature of our muscles and connective tissues of our body,” says Tom Reddin, Head of Strength & Conditioning and Sports Science at GWS Giants AFLW and Super Netball. “That increase in temperature helps our muscle and tissues move more efficiently, and to better withstand the physical demands that comes with sport. For example, muscles can tolerate rapid changes in length much better when they’re warmer and so are less likely to suffer a strain, than when they’re cold.”

Warming up may also enhance sporting performance, says Tom.

“We know from research and through practical evidence that a warmed-up muscle is stronger and faster. Warm-ups help enhance coordination, and improves our ability to react and deal with dynamic situations. Warm-up activities can help act as a bridge between sedentary daily life activities (such as sitting at work or study, or sitting for extended periods in the car) to the chaotic, dynamic demands that come with sport,” he explains.

How long do I need to warm up or cool down for?

If you’re running late from work to get to your weekly netball game or trying to fit in a quick run during a lunch break, warming up might feel like a waste of precious minutes, but Tom says it never is.

“If you’re doing any moderate- to high-intensity exercise I’d recommend taking at least five to 15 minutes to warm up. Think of it like brushing your teeth: you might be able to get away with not doing it once or twice – but if you never do it, you’re eventually going to end up at the dentist with a problem. Continually skipping the warm-up could lead to an injury, which then might see you miss out weeks or even months from your exercise or sport,” he says.

Does everyone need to warm up?

Mostly, yes. Tom explains, “If you’re an elite athlete playing top-level sport, a warm-up is critical. But if you’re a weekend warrior playing for a local team or club, a warm-up is recommended to reduce risk of injury and help enhance performance.”

As we get older, our bodies change, so a warm-up is more important as we get into our 20s, 30s, and beyond.

Tom's general rule-of-thumb: warm-ups are recommended for anyone over the age of 10 doing moderate-to-high level competitive physical activity.

What are the best ways to warm up?

The right way to warm up depends on the type of exercise you’re doing. For a sport like netball, Tom says he tailors the warm-up to suit the training or game that’s about to follow.

“Tailoring your warm-up is important,” he explains, “Netball is a 360-degree, fast-paced game where players are landing, jumping, accelerating quickly and stopping suddenly. The warm-up needs to reflect those movement demands and prepare the body accordingly.”

Because of the extra load on certain muscle groups and joints in netball - specifically knees and ankles - Tom says elite level players spend time warming up those areas to prep the body.

The best warm-up for netball

A good warm-up has increasing levels of intensity, says Tom. He suggests following these steps to get your muscles warm enough before a game of netball:

  • Start with some stretching and foam rolling for mobility, followed by exercises to activate your core and glutes, and finishing with light skipping
  • Then, begin jogging and general movement skills to elevate the heart rate and kick your general motor skills into gear
  • By now you’re getting closer to sports related movements. For a netball warm-up this may include some jumping and landing sequences, and the introduction of more intensive change-of-direction movements
  • Finish with high intensity netball drills and movements involving jumping, landing, changes of direction, acceleration, sudden stops, reactive and competitive drills with the ball.

Words by Kerry McCarthy
First published July 2022

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