Basketball Players–here is an excerpt from a recent issue of the PRO Hooper Newsletter. If you would like to receive content like this every single week, you can get signed up for free by clicking here.


How do you warm up for practices or games?

Most players take little bits of things they have learned throughout their career and morph it all into a routine they feel comfortable with.

It may involve a dynamic warm up, form shooting, spot shooting, layups, ball handling, or any number of other drills. But one thing is almost guaranteed to be happening with every player…

They are going to be warming up the same way today as they did yesterday and the day before that.

Very rarely do you see players do a completely different warm up routine from one day to the next, especially as they advance throughout their career.

But why?

Because for most players, the physical benefits they get from warming up are equally matched by the mental benefits they get.

Their warm up routine is literally getting their mind ready to play and compete; but more than that, it is getting their brain ready to exert themselves at a high intensity.


One thing your brain is best at is keeping you safe. It is constantly scanning your environment and running diagnostics on your body to see if there are any potential threats to your wellbeing.

When you go from resting to exerting yourself, the exertion is initially perceived as a threat by your brain. That’s why, no matter how great of physical condition you are in, it can feel challenging to get started with your workout.

Your brain is literally telling you to stop because what you are doing is more stressful than resting. The aches, pains, soreness, tightness, and heaviness you feel during the warm up are all ways your brain concocts to try to get you to stop exerting yourself because doing so is perceived as a threat to your energy resources.

However, after a few minutes, your brain realizes that what you are doing isn’t threatening. It calms down, and you can start to get into the flow of your workout. This is often why something can feel achy during the warm up and then after a few minutes the achiness goes away.

So how can you shortcut this process and go from achy and sore to full revved up faster?

It largely has to do with how you are stimulating your brain during your warm up.


There are three big things your brain will flag as potential threats to you during your warm up:

  1. Using too much motion
  2. Using too much speed
  3. Using too much effort

However, by priming your brain with the right stimuli, you can let your brain know that the motion, speed, and effort you are using after not threatening it.

From a motion perspective, doing the types of isometric exercises I send you every week is a great place to start. This will allow you to move your joints through their full range of motion and establish a mind-muscle connection. Creating this awareness of the muscle contraction in your more extreme positions of joint motion is a great way to let your brain know that your body can do what you are about to ask it to do.

From a speed perspective, doing fast paced footwork drills is a very safe and effective way to ramp up your central nervous system and get a lot of signals being sent to your muscles. Imagine you have a vertical line and a horizontal line intersecting each other to make four equal sized quadrants. You could follow a simple routine like this to start to ramp your nervous system up:

  • Hop forward and back over the horizontal line for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds, and repeating twice
  • Hop side to side over the vertical line for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds, and repeating twice
  • Hop clockwise around the quadrants for 10 seconds, resting 10 seconds, and repeating twice
  • Hop counterclockwise around the quadrants for 10 seconds, resting 10 seconds, and repeating twice

If you follow the times exactly, it will take you right around three minutes to complete this segment.

From an effort perspective, this is where high-effort skips, lateral slides, and runs/sprints can come into play. I would consider doing something like:

  • Skips for height
  • Skips for distance
  • Lateral slides at 70% each direction
  • Lateral slides at 90% each direction
  • Forward sprint at 70%
  • Forward sprint at 90%

From there, you can get into your shooting and skill work and execute at a much higher level because your brain and central nervous system won’t be fighting you.

By following a system like this where you start by activating the muscles to show your brain you are safe in the motion you are about to use, then ramp up the central nervous system activity through fast and repetitive footwork drills, and then finish with higher effort activities, you can have your warm up serve the specific purpose of preparing your body to perform at a high level without compromising the safety of your joints or overly taxing your system prior to competition.

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Charlie Cates

Charlie Cates is the leading consultant to high-level professional, college, & high school basketball players in the Chicagoland area for injury prevention, recovery, & muscle performance. As a certified Muscle Activation Techniques® MATRx practitioner & former college basketball player, he uses his personal experience & understanding of the game & player demands to create customized exercise options for his clients to recover faster & perform their best. He is certified in the highest levels of MAT®, including MATRx, MATRx Stim, and MAT® Athlete. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!