A Dry-Land Warm Up

In this monthly series of articles, Mike will discuss the science and practice of physical training for Water Polo.  Strength, flexibility, Water Polo science, rehab and other areas of interest with respect to the physical development of the Water Polo athlete will be covered.


The message board on waterpoloplanet.com is great. It is actually where I get many of my ideas for writing these articles. This particle article actually started on the message board last month in a fairly heated debate about stretching and warming up.

You can read that thread (“stretching and warm ups”) at this link:


I definitely have an opinion on this matter and is something that as a youth athlete I had to deal with since pool time was limited. Back in Canada where I grew up, there were never enough practices. I would take every chance I had to get in the pool and try to get better. One of the things I soon realized was that in order to take full advantage of the time in the pool I had to do something on land to shorten the warm up period in the pool (sometimes we only had a 1 hour pool practice). The on land warm up also gave me the motivation to jump in the cold pool on time. Remember, I'm from Canada and in the winter it is well below freezing, so it can be psychologically hard to jump into a cold pool but if I was warming up on land prior to practice it was never a problem getting into the cold water. My warm ups back then usually included some stretching, running and maybe some strength training. I wanted to be sweating before I got into the pool.

A typical winter day in my hometown

Fast forward to the present day and I still do something similar before pool sessions but with current research and a better understanding of the human body the specifics of what is done has definitely changed.

In this article I will discuss a 15 minute on land warm up that can be done prior to any pool practice or match, it can also be done before other land training (e.g. strength training practice).


This should be obvious but the purpose of a warm up is to get warm! How do you get warm? By moving your body through full ranges of motion in a rhythmic fashion.

Not a good warm up exercise.

This right away kind of excludes passive static stretching where you may be holding a specific position in a fairly relaxed manner. I believe this kind of stretching has its place in training but is certainly a little more of a “gray area” in the field of physical training and rehabilitative sciences.

Start slow and easy and gradually increase speed, complexity, range of motion and intensity of movement through out the warm up. As you will see in the warm up included in this article, the first few exercises are relatively easy and progress to more challenging movements by the end. At the end of the warm up, you should be sweating which will also be accompanied by an increased heart rate. In colder climates, I suggest to wear some clothes (sweat pants and top) over your swim suit to aid in getting your body warm.

With respect to Water Polo, we need to warm up the entire body with some special attention to the shoulders, arms and upper back. Since the shoulder is the most commonly injured joint in Water Polo it would be somewhat silly not to pay some attention to it.

The warm up is divided into two sections; i) individual joint mobility and ii) multi-joint movements. The drills in the first section are isolated drills to regain control in specific areas of the body and should be practiced with a very high degree of precision (please see “Cobb, 2006” reference below for more information). The drills focus on typical areas that Water Polo players will have problems with (shoulder, elbows, hips and knees). The second section involves integrating all these joints into more complex movements with many of these movements being similar to what may be done in a strength training program (e.g. Squats). Also in this second section are some isometric (i.e. no movement) exercises that require a high degree of muscle tension. In between exercises you always want to shake off any excess tension built up in the body (I demonstrate this in the video below).

When you are first doing this warm up expect it to take longer then 15 minutes since you may very well be doing some of these movements for the first time. When coaching a team, I suggest to spend the first few sessions going over just the first section (individual joint mobility) then add one or two exercises each time you do the warm up. This way you will have more time to teach the movements and your players will not be overwhelmed with too many new movements all at once. This may take 1-2 weeks depending on how many times you practice.


In the chart below is the order of the warm up exercises. Perform 5-10 reps/exercise which for most of them will equal to approximately 20-30s. Some of the isometric exercises are solely based on time as are some of the other movements near the end of the warm up. For variation you can also add isometric holds in the bottom position of the squats and split squats. All of the individual joint mobility drills are covered in much more detail in the “R-Phase Manual & DVD” (see reference at end of article).

Individual Joint Mobility Drills

Integrated Movements

1. Thoracic A/P Glides

9. Squats

2. Chicken Necking

10. RDL (deadliting pattern)

3. Shoulder Figure 8's

11. Split Squat

4. Scapular Camshafts

12. Side to Side Squats

5. Elbow Circles

13. Front Plank (max tension 15-30s)

6. Hand Figure 8's

14. Bent Over T's

7. Hip Circles

15. Burpees for 30s (with or without push up)

8. Closed Chain Knee Circles

16. Thoracic A/P Glides

In the video below I demo all the exercises in the warm up.

 Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jDl_Q-IB-8


One thing I know we can probably all agree upon is that warming up is important for not only performance but injury prevention. In this article I give an example of a dry-land based warm up that you can use before your Water Polo practices.

I will open a thread on the message board with the title of this article. Please leave your comments, questions, suggestions, experiences, ... on the message board.

I can also be reach directly through my website: www.waterpolotraining.net


Cobb WE. R-Phase Training Series. Z-Health Performance Solutions, 3rd edition 2006. www.zhealth.net

[Click Mike Reid's name at top of page to learn more about his
strength training & conditioning experiences and his web sites.]