The next time you are at the curling club about to play a game, look around, and you will see that each competitor has their own routine (whether they know it or not) that they follow to prepare themselves before action. You are going to witness a range of people from those who show up just in time, to those found swinging their legs and arms, lunging, or even throwing a ball between players (you know, for hand eye coordination). The common denominator between these people is that before a game everyone knows you need to do something, but what exactly can you do that is within your control to help improve your performance and prevent injuries? The answer may lie within a properly executed warm-up. The warm-up sets the tone for every game, practice or training session, and does not discriminate based on age, skill or fitness level. This article will explore the Who, What, When, Where How and Why of a proper, individualized and efficient dynamic warm-up for individuals and teams. Common Questions Answers Who can benefit from them? -Everyone; from the elite to the recreational. What is a dynamic warm-up? -Movements performed actively (not held). When should I perform one? -Before every game, practice or training session. Where should I warm up? -Wherever suits you and is available. How long should it last? -Typically from 5-15 minutes. Why is it so important? -Continue reading to find out… Let me start by providing you with the “Elastic Band Analogy”.
- Take two elastic bands and put them in the freezer for about a half an hour.
- Take out one of the elastic bands, and immediately try to stretch it and move it. You will find that it is hard to move the elastic band without breaking it.
- Then take the second elastic band and slowly move it between your fingers, stretching it slowly and gradually removing the ice from it. Eventually the second elastic band will be warm enough to move in any way you would like.
- Both bands represent your muscles, tendons, joints and central nervous system before a game.
- Every time you take the band out of the freezer and immediately start stretching it (read: hop on the ice and start playing without warming up) you put yourself at risk of injury, and you are beginning the game with a mind that has not yet been prepared for action.
When you prepare yourself slowly before a game you can help prevent injury, and allow yourself to get the most out of your body within the first few ends. But, what is the “proper” way to warm-up before a bout of physical activity? Some athletes may feel tightness before a game, and combat this by stretching the affected area. Unfortunately, there is a difference between stretching, and warming up.
- Stretching involves static, held movements, that create no elevation in heart rate, and is (muscle) tissue focused.
- Warming up involves dynamic, active movements, which gradually increase your heart rate, and are primarily joint focused.
- Dynamic exercises belong primarily before action, and static exercises are most effective post-action.
So How do we properly execute a dynamic warm up? Your warm up should be:
- Athlete specific, since every body is different.
- Movement specific, since each athlete may perform different movements and use different techniques throughout a game.
- Progressive, beginning with general movement preparation, and gradually moving towards more specific movements and activities.
- Step 1: Begin with exercises that will prepare you for general movement, and get your heart and lungs working to move blood throughout your whole body and to your muscles and brain.
- Step 2: Add in some bigger movements that utilize the big joints at your hips and prepare your hip flexors (quads etc.) and hip extensors (hamstrings and glutes etc.) for movement.
- Step 3: Move your focus to your hamstrings and calves.
- Step 4: Warm up your spine and rotator cuffs (shoulder joints).
- Step 5: On-ice:
- Cool down your slider and survey the rink.
- Are you ready for action? Take the necessary steps to prepare yourself fully before the game starts
- Perform a few sport specific actions:
- Progressive slides: slide slowly with control to the back line, then the T-line, top of the house, hog line and then as far as you can
- Sweep on the spot, or up and down the ice.
Your warm up can also include (within the above steps, or separately):
- Foam rolling:
- Commonly known as self myofascial release, or other forms of pain management and prevention
- Time alone:
- To assess how you are feeling both physically, emotionally and mentally.
- Now is the time to address those feelings of doubt, fear, or excitement.
- What are your goals for this game?
- What will you keep your focus on?
- Is there anything distracting you that you must become aware of, so you can take control of letting it go?
- Time with your team:
- How is the team feeling as individuals and as a group?
- What are our goals for the game?
- Does anyone need help with eliminating and ignoring distractions?
- Time that focuses your attention on the game, or task at hand:
- What do we need to know or focus on about the ice?
- What do we need to know or focus on about the team we will play?
- What processes will the team focus on?
- Music specific to you that stimulates the proper mindset for the game:
- Music has the power to affect your mental state. Find a song or type of music that gets you prepared and pumped for the game.
- Mental preparation:
- Activities such as visualization and imagery, repeating mantras, and focusing on positive self-talk all have a profound effect on curbing nerves and narrowing your focus towards the task at hand.
Your warm up should NOT:
- Be longer than half an hour. Preparation for a game or practice can start the moment you wake up, but the physical dynamic portion of your warm up should last from 5 minutes – 15 minutes. Any longer and you begin to tap in to your energy stores for the game. You should feel energized, not tired after a warm-up.
- Be inconsistent. Routines are an integral part of curling and high performance activity. Routines can help pick you up when you are feeling fatigued, bring your mind to the present moment, and help to settle your nerves when you encounter uncontrollable, or new situations.
A proper dynamic warm-up can:
- Increase your core body temperature, which means blood is flowing throughout your body and delivering oxygen and fuel to your working muscles and brain
- Mobilize certain joints
- Stabilize certain joints
- Prepare your central nervous system to work optimally
- Mimic the movement patterns that will be used throughout your training bout or game.
- Address any imbalances in your body
- Reduce your chances of injury by preparing the mind and body for activity
- Fire you up to kick ass
The bottom line: Get your heart rate up, prepare you joints, muscles and brain for action in a way that suits you, your body, and your position; create a routine and stick to it.
“Practice like you play”
Consistency in curling is essential for mastering techniques, skills and providing a comfortable routine that helps you overcome the unexpected, new or uncontrollable situations. It may be beneficial to do a similar warm-up before your practices and training sessions, to best prepare you for your competitions. Just like before each throw you complete the same pre-shot routine, you should also prepare for your practices in a similar way as before a game. This means mimicking the conditions present pre-game before your practices. The habits you ingrain before a practice, and the energy you learn to create transcends to your competition. What you can gain from a consistent and proper warm-up extends further than just physical –you are also prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The 15 minutes prior to a practice or a league game should be spent in the same manner as before the Olympic Gold Medal match. Don’t forget this important key to unlocking your potential, before your workouts, practices, and games!
- Various courses, conversations and experiences while attending Western University.
Work Hard Hurry Hard Play Hard
Stephanie Thompson –CPT
Pinterest: Personal Training with Stephanie Thompson
Youtube: Stephanie Thompson
Ever wonder how hardcore competitive curlers train for their sport? Have you thought, “If I tried to sweep like that, I’d face plant!?” Or, “I could never be as strong as them”? You are not alone with these thoughts, but sweeping with strength shouldn’t belong to the elite or youth. A balanced training plan that includes some strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training can help improve your overall fitness, and have a positive affect on your curling game (see Top 8 reasons why you and your team need to train for curling). Below I’ve listed my 4 favourite exercises to train for “hardcore sweeping”–and yes! They are simple, accessible, and the variations are for everyone.
Before I get into my favourites, let’s talk about the facts and theories behind why I chose each exercise because of what sweeping does to the ice, and how that affects the rock. Many curlers and researchers have studied how to be the most effective sweeper. There are many ideas out there, but my favourite theory is one that applies Newtons second law; the relationship between an objects mass, acceleration and applied force is:
Force = Mass x Acceleration
In terms of sweeping, this translates into:
Mass (what percentage of your weight you can exert over the brush head)
X Acceleration (How fast you can sweep back and forth)
= Force (how much pressure you can exert into the ice over a period of time)
Try this experiment: First, rub your hands together as fast as you possibly can for 10 seconds. Next, try to press your hands together as hard as you can and rub them back and forth for 10 seconds. Which exercise created more “heat” and made your hands warmer? The answer should be that the faster you rubbed your hands together, the warmer they got. The goal of efficient sweeping is to find the sweet spot between maximum speed and pressure onto the ice.
In theory, if you can exert more force onto the ice as you sweep, you will “heat the ice” enough for the rock to “slide further and straighter”. (Yes, I realize there are many theories and scientific discoveries, but I think this one is the simplest explanation/idea, and works for the article).
Now remember, there are two parts to the sweeping action:
The push, and the pull.
Your push is usually quicker, and applies more force downwards onto the ice, whereas your pull is a little slower (if you are trying to lean into your broom), because sometimes you may have to ease off the pressure in order to help pull the broom back fast enough.
The following exercises are designed to train the muscles and the energy systems to maximize your push (and especially) your pull, while helping support your upper body in getting into the proper sweeping position.
*Note: Click on the word of each exercise to find a description video.
Why: The secret to powerful sweeping lies in your core, and its ability to maintain stability during movement. If your core isn’t strong enough to hold you up as you slide or shuffle down the ice, you won’t be able to get into and hold the proper sweeping position. Mountain climbers combine the plank exercise (honourable mention), while forcing your body to remain stable as your limbs move. Add in a pushup (another honourable mention) or two once and awhile and you’ve got an exercise that mimics sweeping!
Muscles worked: Deltoids, triceps, pectorals, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, transverse abdominals, rectus abdominus, adductors, gluteals, quadriceps and hip flexors.
- Begin in a pushup plank position, keeping your core tight, glutes tight, legs tight, and your chin tucked.
- You should be able to rest a glass of water on your back without spilling throughout the exercise.
- Slowly and one at a time bring your knees to your chest and return that foot to its starting plank position.
- Keep your body tight, go slow, and resist any rocking movements at the hips.
Why: Think back to the last time you had to sweep, you’ll remember that it’s easier to put pressure downwards because your body helps slide the broom away. Once you try to pull the broom back towards you, you might have to take pressure off of the broomhead, and transfer it to your feet (thus decreasing the amount of force you can exert –and ultimately how effective of a sweeper you are). Now, imagine if you could strengthen the muscles that help pull your arms backwards, and as a result you can maintain almost the same amount of pressure on the broomhead throughout both the push and the pull. With the bent over rowing exercise, you are strengthening and making your “pull” action more powerful. Not only is the push and the pull stronger, but your broomhead speed will increase –in exchange increasing the your force you create! Bonus: it also strengthens your core muscles and mimics the position you sweep in.
Muscles worked: Rear deltoid, latissumus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, bicep brachi.
- Set up on a bench in a tabletop position with the left knee, foot and hand stabilizing on the bench. Your right leg is straight with the foot stabilizing on the floor. Your back should be horizontal with the bench, and the angle at your left shoulder, hips and knee should be 90 degrees. Keep your chin tucked and your back and core strong and stable.
- Hold the dumbbell in the right hand with your palm facing inwards. Lift the dumbbell up to the right side of your chest, keeping your elbow “tight”, and return to your starting point.
- Do not allow your torso to rock during the exercise, and avoid dropping the dumbbell lower than your starting position. Repeat for reps on each side.
- Other variations and progression can include bent over 2-dumbbell row, cable row, compound row, and bent over barbell row.
Why: Sweeping is typically thought of as primarily an upper body and core exercise, but your lower body also needs to gain strength if you want to “get low”, and maintain strong throughout long games and competitions. A lunge in its many variations is a perfect single leg exercise. Not only does it strengthen the bent leg, but also it actively stretches and lengthens the rear leg. For many, getting their weight off of their feet and over the brush head might be impossible, so keeping these muscles strong will also help prevent overuse injuries in the lower body. Bonus: This exercise strengthens and helps fine-tune the lower body weight control muscles thus improving your throwing technique.
Muscles worked: Hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings), hip flexors (quadriceps), transverse abdominus.
- Stationary lunge –Begin with your core tight, chest open (avoid rounding your shoulders) and stand with your feet hip distance apart. Step forward with one leg keeping feet hip distance apart. Avoid the front foot from pointing inwards, and keep your knee tracking towards but not over the middle or baby toe. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and step forward with your back foot to return to your starting position. Repeat on each side for reps.
- Walking lunge –Using the same starting position and form as the stationary lunge, only pause at the bottom for 1 or 2 seconds before walking forwards and switching the lead foot. Repeat for reps.
- Side lunges – Begin with the same setup. This time step sideways to the right into a wide squat position, lunge to the right sinking your butt backwards, keeping chest high and core tight, weight in your right heel, and keep your right knee over your right foot and ankle. Return to starting position driving through the right foot, and repeat on left side. Repeat on each side for reps.
Why: Front end players can expect to sweep 6 rocks an end, and nearly 48-60 rocks a game. On quick ice if you have to sweep from start to finish, you will be putting in work for almost 24 seconds, with only about a minute rest before your team throws their next rock. What you don’t want as a sweeper, is to still be recovering from your last sweeping bout during your teams next throw. Anaerobic interval training involves bouts of hard exercise, followed by active rest periods, and repeated a certain number of times. This type of workout trains your heart and lungs to become more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen throughout your body, removing waste products from tired muscles, and promotes quicker recovery times between shots, games, and competitions. Long distance aerobic training helps to train your cardiovascular system, but you need to work anaerobically once a week to prepare your body for rigorous games.
Muscles worked: Various, full body.
Step 1: Choose one of: running, skipping, biking, rowing machine, pushups, swimming, etc.
Step 2: (Work : Rest ratio is 1:2) After a good warm up, exercise hard for 20-60 seconds (your choice), active rest for 40-90 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
It may not be one of your goals to sweep like Kennedy or Courtney, but if nothing else these exercises alongside a balanced training plan will help you get stronger, and help prevent injuries come the beginning of the season. If you can add a foot or two to how far you can drag a rock, that’s a foot or two closer to becoming club champion!
“Work Hard, Hurry Hard, Play Hard”
Stephanie Thompson, CPT, HBA Kin, B.Ed
In case you missed the youtube links:
Interested in learning more about a proper dynamic warm-up? Check out my article: “Am I doing my Pre-Game Warm-up Right?” -A Guide for Curlers
Check out this wonderful article from the Golden Hawks High Performance Centre. The article touches on some key points for proper sweeping form, the theories supporting them and some of the research that is being done through Western University on the mechanics of brushing.
Enjoy this article from Scott Arnold and curling.ca about their results from a study one in 2010.
Check out my original article Top 8 reasons why you and your team need to train for curling.