The warming-up has 3 functions.

  1. Physical: the rugby player performs better after a warming-up because of the "elasticity of his muscles is higher".
  2. Mental: he prepares himself mentally for the training or the game. (SAQ: Activation of neural pathways)
  3. Injury Prevention: a good warming-up reduces the risks of injuries.

I would also like to describe how I organize around the warming-up. A poor organization can bring down all the things you try to achieve!

1. Physical

First, the physical aspect of the warming-up. This can be divided in 3 stages :

  1. Getting on temperature,
  2. Muscle loosening and stretching exercises,
  3. Specific rugby warming-up is with coordination exercises, for 5 - 10 minutes.

My team is doing the same warming-up routine for a match as we do for the training. Making it just that: a performance routine: I believe routines befor a match are important.

The SAQ exercise of standing in pairs and swinging legs is a good example: warming up hip - lower back - leg and increasing mobility in the joint making a bigger stride possible.

Other exercise I do during warming-up come form a lower back pain injury prevention program (Sports Injury Bulletin, available on the web):

1) 'Knee-elbow touches' in which players start in an upright, standing position and then rotate their trunks to the right, lift their right knees while standing on their left feet only, and touch their right knees with their left elbows. Then return to the standing position, rotate their trunks to the left, lift their left knees, and touch their left knees with their right elbows. Continue this alternating pattern - left elbow touching right knee and right elbow touching left knee - for up to 40 repetitions;

2) 'Balancers or Superman,' in which players start out on all fours (hands and knees on the ground) and then extend their left legs straight back and their right arms straight ahead, while remaining in balance on their right knees and left hands. Then back to the starting position and move left arms ahead and right legs back before alternating this pattern for a total of up to 40 reps;

3) Modified sit-ups, players lay on their backs with their knees flexed, feet on the floor, and arms behind their heads and then slowly move forward alternately to the left and then to the right;

4) Proprioceptive training, in which the players stand on a wooden disk with a sphere attached to its undersurface (also called Jelly Ball and sold by SAQ). Players need to try to keep balanced on the sphere without letting the edges of the disk touch the floor - while twisting their bodies and bending at the knees. (I did this years ago, returning from a bad ankle injury)

People have found that the 7 minutes warming-up with these mobility stretches are great way to start the training session. I saw it combines nicely with the other SAQ stuff.

A great example of dynamic flex warmup routine in this Youtube clip. (Also great coaching during the drill!)

2. Mental preparation

With the warming-up exercises well established as a start for training and matches I can focus on getting the players ready for the match. I definitely want to get involved in the warming-up of my team because of this aspect. The book "Psyching for Sport, Terry Orlick" gives us a good framework for this.

2.1. Strengthen the feeling of being prepared

Examples of what I was saying in the Dutch National Under 18 campaignafter the we won the semi final of the Pool B European Championships in 2013 and repeated it right up to the warming-up for the final three days later:

2.2. Allow no intrusion of negative images

I always compare this with the old fashion slide projectors. Not the one with a carousel but where you could replace only one while the other was projected: Remove the projected image for a positive one. This is what I say.

You get the idea: I use the key-factors in a skill or a defensive movement as cue words to trigger the projection of a positive image and hope this will also trigger a positive action later on the field.

2.3. Get worked up to an optimal anxiety level

2.4 Warming-up for training

Most things I describe work as warming-up for a training session too. I do not do the scrum / line-out plays but do a repeat of some of the work I did earlier in the season (sort of Maintenance).

3. Injury Prevention

This is aspect of Warming-up is described here. On this page, Don de Winter Sports MD focuses on the following topics:

4. Organization

You have to make sure you get the timing right otherwise everything thing you do is going to be wasted. This is what we do with our team:

k.o. minus 60 mins. We all arrive (home and away)
I check if the game before us started on time and determine our k.o. time
k.o. minus 55 mins. We do a check-up, is everybody there? The time roster is finalized, players arriving too late will not play the first half
k.o. minus 30 mins. We go to the changing room, I try to talk to the ref.
k.o. minus 15 mins. We go out, warming-up outside
k.o. minus 5 mins. We do some unit work
k.o. minus 1 min. Huddle: IT takes us through our team yell

During the warming-up I try to communicate with the opposition team and the ref if we are still on time. I have found that if I run a strict routine and we suddenly are delayed 5 or more minutes we are destroyed. The whole built-up comes down.

If the opposition suddenly is not ready, try discuss a new k.o. time, go inside for sportsdrinks etc, and restart k.o. plus 10 mins. Or, my opposition team went back into the dressing room and deliberately game back late, when they finally came out of the dressing room we moved back in.....

A couple of years ago we played in the final of the Dutch Under 19 competition. When we arrived (yes, k.o. minus 60 mins.) our opponents were already on the pitch, warming-up - training. There was a little bit of panic about this with my team but we kept to our schedule. We new what we were going to do on the pitch (I had scheduled a low intensity training session the day before) and I simply had to remind the team what we were going to do before the game. (And yes, we became Dutch champions)

Role of the Captain

Lots of coaches leave the changing room and the warming-up to the captain. A traditional thing I believe. If it works then it should be okay, but from my point of view you put a lot work in as a coach, it could all be wasted by a poor warming up. At least discuss with the captain what you want out of it.

Cooling down

Cooling-down is in fact the opposite to the warming-up: like the body adjusts slowly from a rest position into a strained position, so it gradually needs to return from a strained position into a rest position. A cooling-down should consists of :

Related material: