The Warm-Up in GAA. Principles, not Prescription

What are my beliefs when it comes to warming up a team? It's a question I get asked a lot, when do we do it? , why do we do it? How do we do it? But before I answer let's look at few problems with warming up teams in general.

  1. When you perform poorly in a game it's the most common thing a group of players will pick on as an issue.
  2. It's impossible to please all your players in a warm-up, I have tried and I have failed.
  3. Warm-up prescriptions like the GAA 15 or The FIFA versions whilst they have a good foundation in the scientific literature, can get immensely boring for your players.
  4. If you do all games based warm-up, you'll probably miss a trick regarding specific injury prevention stuff that you probably need to do.
  5. If you do all S&C style injury prevention stuff you'll probably miss a trick regarding games-based warm-ups, after all your preparing them to play a game.
  6. Simple stuff like who takes the warm-up can be torture, I've yet to meet a skills coach or a head coach that likes warming up a team (young coaches pay attention, this is usually a great place to get experience with a team).
  7. Another issue with teams can be the decision to do a warm-up just before throw-in or kick-off, or do you do essentially 2 warm-ups? And what about a warm-up at half time?
  8. What if it's raining heavily? Another consideration.

For a club team I prefer to do the warm-up and then go straight into the game, the more a team has to move, the more messing around, the more leakage and focus can occur.

I'm going to explain my belief systems based on trial and error, science, and reading constantly on the best way. Try to filter everything too with a constant appreciation of logistics, if you don't have enough space, equipment, or time you just have to do the best job you can.

But even allowing for that I will still always keep this system in place I'm about to explain to you. I also hate the term Warm Up, It's still training, after all, the words warm up to me mean a slow jog and some lousy stretches, let's use this time for some proper S&C work, taking into account the fact we have to build things up gradually.

I also have assumed you have foam rolled and stretched before you have hit the pitch, for my systems this is non-negotiable and my players must do it. Even if you hate foam rolling etc, It still necessary for players to work on their own individual areas before the group stuff.

When you coach a team - the following core components should be in the warm-up (this is my beliefs if you have different let's meet up for coffee and discuss)

1. Bio motor qualities (March, Skip, Shuffle, Cross In Front, Back Peddle, Ladder Drills, Zig-Zags). I do a tonne of these and I love them.

Some simple lateral drills would work very well in the warm-up phase.


 
 
A few cones = Infinite possibilities for movement skills

2. Core (Plank, Bridge, Pallof Press, Pillar Work, 1 leg dl, Push-ups, Band Work).
3. Hand-Eye Co-ordination (Tennis Ball work, Ball catching, Reaction Balls, Ball Drills, Specific skill work with catching a different ball to the one you play with helps too.)
4. Mobility (World’s greatest stretch, Deep Squat, Toe touch, Quad Walk, Inchworm, FMS Correctives, Crawling).

 

Something like this is super, it combines all you need in a 10m line. Source - Elite Physical Prep


Every warm-up must contain all of the above but emphasise more on certain days to keep it fun and interesting. So on Monday, you might do 80% Core - 20% the rest or on Wednesday you might do 80% Hand-Eye Co-Ordination - 20% the rest.

 Your session plans must reflect this - But when starting off if you are more comfortable with one standard Warm up that’s fine. Games are great, Variation is great, starting off as a coach session plans are Gold. Planning is vital for a successful session. These don't need to be fancy, a simple copybook will do fine, I like to back everything up as best I can however so I can look back. With regards also to your players moaning about a warm-up, have as Susan Scott would call a "Fierce Conversation" and agree on a few points and get their input on some (not all) of the content.

Core Ideas:

Maybe introduce throughout the warm-up to keep players guessing? , coach everything and don't accept sloppy technique.

Core Drills - Hundreds of options
Bridge – 1 leg bridge – 1 leg deadlift - 1 leg squat variations (if the players can do them)
Push Up rotate
V Shape - 
High Plank

Hand-Eye: (Most GAA Drills work this - Maybe try different size balls?)

Tennis Ball games
Down up & Change 
Shuffle and Pass Drills 
Throw off a wall and catch 
Squash game off walls
Med Ball Throws

Mobility:

Spiderman’s
Reaching Lunges 
Overhead Squat 
Lunge to Reach 
Walkouts 
Worlds Greatest Stretch

Biomotor Skills:

Simple Shuffles
Cross in Fronts 
Zigzag runs 
Slaloms around cones 
Roger Federer Drills with med balls
Cutting Drills

When we have the Big 4 done - We then need to add some SPEED or POWER work

Speed Ideas:

Wickets
Line Runs

V Runs 
Gears or Curved Runs
4 Point Starts or Hoop Drills 
3 Point Starts

 
 


Something like this can even be a nice warm-option for a team

.

Power:

Med Ball Throws to each other or off a wall – (med balls are a fantastic tool.)
Boxing - one player has gloves on, one holds a hit shield.
Heiden and Stick through ladders. 
Box Jumps
Plyos - knee tucks, hurdles, boxes, Know the level 
Bag Hits - Rugby (maybe as a bit of fun for GAA players but coach it well) 

Sample Warm up session Plan 

Jog around the park - introduce stretches as you go – Keep it snappy

Phase 1: Team lined up in lines - cones down – 10 meters away

4 x A March
4 x B March 
4 X Front High Knees 
4 X Side High Knees

Phase 2: 

4 X Tennis Ball Throws with shuffles - Make tougher as you go, introduce different calls and cues to challenge your team. 

Phase 3: 

4 X Spiderman crawls - Front and Side for Mobility

Phase 4: Speed

4 X Cone Side Step 
4 X 3:4 Point Starts 

Phase 5: Power (note need soft leather style med balls)

MB Throws Continuous with various techniques.

Some med ball work I did with the Offaly Snr Footballers a few years ago, players nearly always were positive about the use of them in the warm-up.

Summary 

These are just my beliefs and how I approach warming up teams and what's missing in this short article is the actual skill work, but, it is easy to see where you fit that in this system. For example, you can end with a shooting drill (players will nearly always want this).

I would recommend investing in a few cheap Heart rate monitors too and see what HR your players are hitting, too low and it's not good, too high it's probably not great either - think short, sharp, and smart. 

Coach Hare