How long does your warm-up take? 15 minutes is probably average, but let's figure you have a team that trains three times per week for an entire semester in their off-season. A semester is about 12 weeks, so let's figure that a team that trains three times per week ends up with about nine hours of warm-up time during that semester.

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What can we get done in that time that will benefit them the most? This is a question my assistant and I have asked at the beginning of every semester. What follows is the schedule we have used for warm-ups prior to strength sessions for the last five semesters. What has remained is something that I have personally kept in mind since my time at Averett University eight years ago. All of this comes from answering one question: what do most collegiate athletes need and why?

  1. Wake Up — Jumping Jack Variations and Skipping Variations
    • I spent an entire semester starting every athlete on their back, whether it was 6 AM or 4 PM. That’s stupid. What do kids do when they’re early for a 6 AM lift when they know they are starting on their back? They lay down in the weight room. Don’t let them do that.
  2. Squat Pattern — Some Form of Squat
    • We prioritize the squat, so whether it’s a squat day in the weight room or not, we want to pattern the movement in some way or another.
  3. Hinge Pattern — Some Form of Hinge
    • We prioritize the hinge in the same way as the squat. We want to assess, practice, and get really good without load.
  4. Glute Activation — Hip Raise, Fire Hydrants
    • This addresses problems that arise from sitting in class, studying, sitting at a computer doing homework, driving, and anything else that causes the athletes to do too much sitting.
  5. Scapula Activation — YTA’s, Blackburns
    • Same as above. Sitting at a computer hunched over doesn’t do much for the postural muscles of the back, so we focus on those with everybody, overhead athlete or not.
  6. Leg Separation/Hip Mobility — Spiderman or Side Lunge Variation
  7. CNS/Reactivity — Foot Fire, Line Jumps and Hops, High Knees

Fall 2014 — Semester 1

Stationary Warm-Up

  • Wake Up — Jumping Jacks or Skips
  • Squat Pattern — Squat or Squat to Deadlift
  • Hinge Pattern — Single Leg RDL or Bilateral RDL
  • Bracing — Leg Lower Progression
  • Glute Activation — Marching Hip Raise or Cook Hip Lift
  • T-Spine Mobility — Side Lying Floor Sweeps or Quadruped Rotations
  • Scap Activation — Prone YTA’s or Prone Blackburns
  • Leg Separation/Hip Mobility — Spiderman Variation
  • Central Nervous System Activation/Reactivity — High Knees, Line Hops, Tuck Jumps

man runner jogger running  isolated

Spring 2015 — Semester 2

Wake Up preceded the same stuff as above, although instead of doing it all as a group, stationary, we made stations around the room and added a medicine ball throw. We did 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for each station. We did two rounds, so after the Wake Up this took eight minutes after the groups knew the exercises. We would then finish with up to two minutes of CNS activation with the whole group.

Fall 2015 — Semester 3

We spent a lot of time coming up with some better warm-ups over the summer, including a 12-week box jump progression that we really liked. We wanted to add more explosive work to our program and felt like we could add some medicine ball throws and core training into the extra warm-up without time being an issue.

Then in late July and August, we started getting schedule requests and realized pretty quickly that the 1200 square-foot room that is the only place to do box jumps would not work great when we stagger a majority of our teams by 15 minutes.  So the box jumps got scrapped for bodyweight vertical, horizontal, and lateral jump progressions. A quick general warm-up was now followed by a jump, medicine ball throw, core exercise, and a shoulder or glute activation exercise.

This is what a day could look like:

Wake Up

  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • T-Spine Mobility
  • Spiderman
  • CNS
  • Three Rounds of:
  • Vertical Jump with Reset x 5
  • Lunge Position MB Side Toss x 15 per Side
  • Alternating Three-Point Front Plank x 10 per Side
  • Prone YTA x 6

Spring 2016 — Semester 4

This semester was similar in setup to Fall Semester 2015. However, we really felt the need to add more movement. We don’t have the time or space to get speed/agility/conditioning sessions in with 90% of our teams. We have a 1000 square-foot room that we use as a warm-up area and the rubber floor allows us to do five-yard accelerations, 5-10-5 drills, and other short agility drills with, at most, two people at a time.

We decided we would have three days of movement. Day 1 would be five-yard accelerations from different starting positions, Day 2 would be short agility drill, and Day 3 would be a repeat agility drill done for time or reps. The only difference from Fall Semester 2015 is we replaced the shoulder/glute activation exercise with the movement drill and found a place to plug that activation exercise back in during the training session.

Fall 2016 — Semester 5

Over the summer we experimented with barbell jumps. We wanted to find something on the force-velocity curve that was somewhere in between our bodyweight jump progressions and our strength exercises. Only one team that we have utilizes the full Olympic lifts. With time and space both being issues, we wanted to find an alternative to the variations and had been hearing and reading about barbell jumps being a great option. With that in mind, two to three days per week we made barbell jumps our A1 Exercise, paired with upper and lower activation/mobility. The warm-up has remained relatively the same as last semester, only we don’t feel the need to have an activation movement. We usually stick to a bodyweight jump, medicine ball throw, and core stabilization exercise, followed by barbell jumps for three sets of two to four jumps, and whatever activation or mobility work we deem necessary for that team.

Another change we made to the warm-up was that we got rid of lateral jumps. With the exception of a few athletes, they just didn’t look good or explosive, and we had no real way to measure them. So we scrapped what was our “lateral jump” day for a hurdle jump progression.

Here is an example of what our first 20 minutes of a baseball lift looked like:

  • Jumping Jacks x 20
  • Seal Jacks x 20
  • Lateral Lunge x 10
  • Lateral Lunge Hamstring Stretch x 10
  • Cook Squat (Fingers Under Toes, Squat, Hands Up, Stand) x 10
  • Hip Bridge Hold x 30 seconds
  • Single Leg Lower with Activation x 10
  • Floor Sweeps x 20
  • YTA Holds for 2 x 10 Seconds Each
  • Shoulder Stabilization from Push-Up Position x 20
  • Spidermans x 10
  • Shuffle Splits x 20
  • In and Outs x 20
  • High Knees x 20

Extended Warm-Up

  • Repeat Vertical Jump – 3 x 4
  • Stability Ball Circles – 3 x 10 per side
  • Staggered Stance Med Ball Side Toss – 3 x 10 per Side

First Training Circuit

  • A1. Barbell Jumps – 3 x 3
  • A2. Prone External Rotation – 2 x 8
  • A3. Band Hip Abduction – 2 x 15

This is year three of my assistant and I working with our athletes in our current facility. By no means have we figured out exactly what works best, but we feel like we have made progress. You’ll notice how far away we were during our first year by what we are doing now. You’ll also notice that those main concepts, I listed in the beginning, are still found somewhere. When you come into a situation, you may need to make some big changes and try a few things out before you land on something that fits your needs. Once you find that, it’s time to absorb, modify, apply (as Coach Kenn would say), which is what we have tried to do the last few semesters.

Bobby Fisk is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at NJIT. He can be reached by email at