| | | Pre-Practice Warm Up Protocol

Author / John

The pre practice warm up has been a thorn in a sport coach’s side for a long time. Thought to be a loss of 15 minutes each and every day that could be used to help get the athletes better at sport.  Coaches either cut the warm up short to fit more practice in or cut out big impact pieces towards the end of practice such as special teams, free throws, or even stretching.

The ole ’10 count’ team static stretch or half-assed movement walkthroughs are wastes of practice time and doing more harm than good.  Take advantage of the opportunities presented in our previous Pre Practice Warm Up article and approach warming up as an investment in your athlete’s and team’s success, not another fallacy.

Only so much time is allotted for each practice and each piece is planned down to the minute.  No other component of the practice plan is designed to waste a team’s valuable time, why should the warm up?

This article will dissect the pre practice warm up and present simple protocols using elements of Field Strong for sport coaches to develop and implement effective warm ups for team needs.

Football-Dynamic-Warm-Up-Power-AthleteFactors to Consider

How much time is a coach willing to commit from the pratice plan to get their athletes ready to practice?

The answer is simple; how much time do you have?

Each team must deal with adversities such as field availability, traveling to practice, and time constraints set by the state. 15 minutes is plenty, and all of the examples included here can be completed in 10 minutes.

My views for pre practice and game day are different, and game day will be discussed in the next article.  For practice warm ups (whether it’s lacrosse, football, or anything) I have my teams warm up in full gear required for the practice.  If it’s only helmets (and gloves) then that’s what we warm up in.  If it is a full gear practice, then that’s what we go with.

This is purely a ‘get your mind right’ approach, and setting the tone that we’re going to work.  This kills the excuse bug and assists in eliminating the adjustments for gear that slows down the flow of practice.

Players have a perception of what a warm up entails.  Going back to the concept of the previous article, we want to create a new mindset and provide direction in this portion of practice.  To accomplish this, I never use the term “Warm Up” with my teams, I simply replace it with “M.E.S. Up”.  This stands for Motion Elasticity Stability…Up.  A new term for the time allows for a new meaning, and with that, a new mindset.


Focus on the following goals each and every day before beginning the warm up to get the most out of this practice piece.  These straight forward goals allow for consistent focus and progress, and will wring everything out of the pre practice protocol and examples listed below!

1. Recovery and Assessment

  • Help the athletes recover from the last practice, and puts them in a better position to recover from present session.
  • Identify limiting factors for performance (tightness, soreness) from previous practices and games.

2. Set the Tone for Practice

  • Not, “Rah, rah! Do Work!” tone, but, “Focus, Execution and Mutual Accountability” tone.
  • Just as one play leads to another, one movement prepares the next.  Establishes a mindset of executing in the moment, not waiting for plays or movements they enjoy.
  • The central nervous system and all senses are primed to fire for the first drill, not halfway through practice…if at all.

3. Problem Solve with the Body

  • A pre practice warm up and pre game warm up must include moving through multiple planes of motion and force application onto another athlete.
  • Challenge coordination, balance, and positioning through space for the day and develop over season.
  • Try new movements. Fail. Accept challenges. Apply the mental focus necessary for executing plays.

4. Athlete-Body Connection for Game Day Preparation

  • This connection is the most important goal for a coach to explain to their athletes. All practices lead up to the Game Day moment, and they will know exactly what their body needs to be ready.
  • These movements test and progress athleticism, while improving the ability to move through space in full gear.

Dynamic-Warm-Up-Pre-Practice-Power-AthletePre Practice Warm Up Protocol:

  1. Motion
  2. Iso-Stability
  3. Ankles
  4. Posterior Chain
  5. Force Application
  6. XYZ Primals
  7. Multiplane Movement
  8. Dynamics

Watch the following video and identify each component listed above.  This is taken from a football pre practice warm up, but the protocols are applicable to any team or individual sport.


  1. Motion
    “Motion creates emotion!” This is the ‘Get your Chili hot!’ portion. Get some motion out of the group, and keep mixing it up.  These are your strides, shuffles, cariocas, jumping jacks, etc.  Just get their feet, knees, hips and arms in motion!
  2. Iso-Stability
    Using Field Strong Iso-Stability tactics, set that spine and posture expectation of sport with some dead bug home position, pillar hold, Static Side Pillar Hold, or many others.  Start with a level the athletes can handle, and progress to more difficult variations as team works through pre-season and in-season.
  3.  Ankles
    The ankle girdle is a key and often overlooked component to field sport success, so they must be addressed in the warm up.  These can be combined with posterior chain and primal work once the athletes are competent.  But until then, nothing beats the Cocky walk and heel walk combo.
  4. Posterior Chain
    The GO muscles!  Before any explosive action, quality lengthen and stabilization movements are used to recover from previous practices and prep body for ranges of motion for the day.  Examples of these movements include Inch worm complexes and Spiderman complexes.
  5. Force Application
    Including proprioceptive senses into the warm up is a great opportunity to get the CNS fired up and ready to apply task specific force.  Accomplished with manual resisted movement through different planes of motion.  The example used in the video is a resisted stalking back pedal with the athletes driving each other in opposing directions; force matching resistance, plus one!
  6.  XYZ Primals
    This is where different combinations of hip movements seen on the field are built into the warm up.  Moving from squats to lunges and lunges to step ups are practiced daily. This increases an athlete’s ability to seamlessly move from a down position to a sprint and into a tackling or jumping position. Field Strong Primal Complexes provide further examples of XYZ Primal combinations.planes-of-motion-and-axis-of-rotation
  7. Multiplane Movement
    Multiplane movements are accomplished by having the athletes separating the shoulders and hips, bending laterally, moving laterally, and many more.  May be combined with the XYZ primal work as seen in the video.  Revert back to the Planes of Motion chart and combine two in as many ways as possible.  The examples in the video include Slow N’ Lows, Spiderman with Vertical Rotation, Squat to Lunge with a lateral side bend.
  8. Dynamics
    This is the time to turn it on! High horse power, short duration and have them do more than one rep to challenge replication of speed!  Quality variations are listed below in Full Warm Up Examples section.

Full Warm Up Examples:

Example 1 (Video Above)

25 yds Rt./25 yds Lft.
Stride 50 yds
Dead Bug Home Position :30 ——->
Dead Bug Home Position :30
Cocky Walks 15yds ——->
Heel Walks (step over calf) 15yds
Spiderman Crawls w/ Elbow to Drop 15yds ——->
Slow N’ Lows- Rt. 15yds
Spiderman w/ Vertical Rotation ——->
Slow N’ Lows- Lft. 15yds
Resisted Stalking Back Pedal P1 ——->
Resisted Stalking Back Pedal P2
Athletic Position (X) to
Lunge (Y) w/ Side Bend
 ——-> <——- Lunge (Y) w/ Twist pull through to Step Up (Z)
Sprint forwards 5yds—> Backpedal 5yds—> Sprint 15 yds x 2-3


Example 2

Stride it out: 50 yds ——->
Carioca 25yds Right/ 25yds Left
Side Pillar :30 Rt. ——->
Side Pillar :30 Lft.
Lateral Cocky Walks 7yds Rt.–>
7yds Lft. (Seamless rotate Rt.)
Lateral Heel Walks 7yds Rt.–>
7yds Lft. (Seamless rotate Lft.)
Resisted Lateral Step Catch Lft. ——->
Resisted Lateral Step Catch Lft.
Resisted Lateral Step Catch Rt. ——->
Resisted Lateral Step Catch Rt.
Lateral Lunge (X) to Step Up (Z)
7yds Rt.–> 7yds Lft
Squat (X) to Backwards Lunge (Y)
w/ Side Bend 15 yds
Shuffle 5yds—> Shuffle back 5yds—> COD burst 15 yards x 2
Sprint 5 yards—-> Sprint 10 yards —> Sprint 5 yards and through x 2


Example 3

High Knee A Skips ——->
Stride 30 yds
Partner Resisted Pillar :30 P1 ——->
Partner Resisted Pillar :30 P2
Inchworms Forwards ——->
Outside In Skips- 15 yds
Inchworms Backwards ——->
Inside Out Skips- 15 yards
Leg Cradle (Z) to Lunge (Y)
w/ Twist and No false steps!
Squat (X) to Backwards Lunge (Y)
w/ Side Bend
Push Ups Starts x 2
3 Count Athletic Position Burpee and Burst 15 yards on whistle. x 4-6 reps
Whistle will go at random, at any position (Push Up, Athletic Position, or Jump)


Unfortunately, there is no perfect warm up that can be performed every single practice. I found this out the hard way when I was coaching lacrosse, and attest this is why some 1st quarters and possible games were lost.

As the athletes perform the same warm up routine the benefits become less and less positive.  Whether it is through accommodation or the athletes loses of focus and interest, routine is a death trap for warm ups.

Wear and tear injuries will decrease, the athletes will become more familiar with their bodies, and coaches will be able to get more out of each practice.

Use the above protocols and examples to develop warm ups that constantly build and challenge athletes through the length of the season.  Field Strong is your tool box for base movements and progressions.

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Gavin on September 2, 2014 at 6:55 am

    Tremendous article, Tex. I don’t coach a damned thing, but all of this goes into my knowledge bucket anyway. Thanks!

  2. Ingo B on September 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    While this video isn’t exactly illustrative of Tex’s point, it does blatantly display the old school vs. new school way of thinking.

    As background, both teams are allowed to warm up on the court before taking hitting practice (basically, it’s a dick swinging contest where the guys see how high they bounce the ball off the floor).

    Note the team in white doing a bunch of static stretching compared to what Cameroon is doing. While it is assuredly NOT sport-specific priming, one could argue it readies their state of mind (clears the head, better emotional state, camaraderie, whatever).

    Anyway, I just thought it was interesting:


  3. NUTTER on September 29, 2014 at 10:54 am

    great article man. didn’t know you were coaching st albans

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