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The Best Pre-Practice Warm Up for Kids

The Best Pre-Practice Warm Up for Kids

By: SPIDERfit Kids, used with permission from SPIDERfit Kids,


Stretching....Is dead!

Well, not really. (That’s just a really catchy headline.)

In reality, the stretching we grew up with still has some benefit for our kids, we’ve just found it needs to be applied differently to provide a benefit.

We’ve actually discovered that “static” stretching (touching your toes, etc.) prior to an activity does not provide the benefits we originally thought it did.  Actually, it appears it may actually contribute to injury.

If you think about it, forcing a cold muscle into an extreme position doesn’t make much sense.    To compound insult with the illogical, sitting on the ground touching our toes doesn’t really prepare the brain’s coordination centers for running in multiple directions, accelerating, decelerating, and everything in between.  

If you want to get your kids ready to play, maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of injury, research suggests providing some general and specific challenges, similar to those a child will see during their sport or activity, during a warm up. 

So instead of beginning your child’s next practice with the jogging of laps and touching of toes, consider a warm up that challenges both the brain and body with different movements, reactions, and sensory demands. 

Static stretching is best done after the final whistle, before the orange slices. 

There are literally thousands of ways to get kids moving, but if you haven’t spent your life studying how to create activities for kids, it’s a little overwhelming.  Additionally, you probably don’t have much time to put a warm up together.

Luckily, there’s a quick and simple framework anyone can use to create a warm up that maximizes performance while minimizing injury.  This is the basic framework I’ve used for years with individuals, teams, and even adults.   

Knowing how young attention spans work, you’ll have about five reasonable- quality minutes dedicated to a warm up before a mutiny.  In this short amount of time, you need to engage the general coordination centers of the brain, in addition to the neuromuscular patterns they will experience during their sport. 

This is accomplished by splitting the warm-up time into two parts, about 2-3 minutes each.  They’ll spend a total of about 20 seconds on each activity (10 seconds with 10 seconds transition/instruction time), so think a total of about 10-12 activities.

Out of these activities, half should be general coordination and sensory awareness, the other half, more specific to their sport.

For general coordination and sensory awareness, you can use a teaching/coaching technique called “guided discovery”.  This is where you give the children a movement, then provide different “variables” for them to add to that movement.  The goal isn’t perfect movement.  

The goal is for them to improve the coordination between their body and brain as they continually adapt to new movement variables, for effort (fast, slow, etc.), space (direction, limbs, etc.) and relationships (under, over, around, etc.)

For example, write down 5 locomotion or calisthenic exercises you know.  

For Example:

Push Ups
Bear crawling
1 leg hopping

Next to each, write down 2 ways you could add a variable to each movement.  Think about the effort, space, and relationships.  

Push ups with the arms and legs wide, then narrow
Skip fast, then slow, or forward, then backward.

Keep it simple.  The more experience you and your kids have, the more variables you can layer (skip fast sideways with arms wide and legs narrow).

Do each exercise/variable combo for about 10 seconds, then introduce the next.  If kids are a little slow to adapt, use fewer exercises and go for a longer period of time.

After 5 or 6 exercise/variable combos write down another 5 or 6 specific movement demands they will experience during their sport.  Nearly every sport will require:

Direction change
Movement technique (specific for a sport, i.e. shuffling for basketball)

Thinking as simply as you can, write down 1 activity that involves each.  

Do about 20-30 seconds worth of each activity.

Below is a sample “Perfect Warm-Up” for any sport for 6-10 year-olds.

Jumping jacks in a circle, fast to slow 10 seconds

Push ups with arms wide and legs narrow (then switch to arms narrow, legs wide about halfway through)  10 seconds

Shuffle in a zigzag with arms above the head

Squat while moving forward with the legs wide, (then switch to backward halfway through) 10 seconds

Bear crawl backward with the hips high then low  10 seconds

Jump forward and backward fast, then side to side slow   10 seconds

Wall Lean Alternate Marches  3x10 second  (Running technique)

Multidirectional Get Up and Go 5 x 20 yards

In and Out 3 x 30 yards

Agility Shapes 3x10 seconds

Partner Mirror 2x10 seconds each partner

Put this into your next practice or game and supercharge your young athletes!

Brett Klika is the founder and president of SPIDERfit Kids, an organization committed to providing parents and professionals everything they need to inspire kids to become active and athletic for life. Go to for more information