Creating the Perfect Warm-Up

We all know the value of warming up before we lift or do any type of sports activity. What we may not be as familiar with is how to structure a warm-up and the fundamentals behind why we organize them the way we do. This article will help solve just that with a comprehensive review of the literature on approaches to warming up. 

Warm-ups can be classified into two categories broadly speaking, you have a passive warm-up and this just consists of you trying to increase your body temperature without movement so this can be done with some type of sauna, heating pad, etc.. and then you have active warm-ups and this consist of using exercise to improve flexibility, increase core temperature, cognitive focus, and getting our muscles primed to do the work that will be asked of them shortly. Most athletes and coaches rely mostly on active warming up just due to so many physical constraints of passive warm-ups. Fradkin and colleagues did a meta-analysis on the effects of warming up and found that more than 80% of the research shows a positive effect on physical performance. 

When we hear the term static stretching we think a lot of negative thoughts and rightfully so. There has been a good amount of literature that shows it can be detrimental but this is when static stretching is done improperly. A study by Takizawa et al looked at short-duration static stretching, 20secs or less without repeats after a 15 min general warm-up and found no significant differences in the running times to exhaustion compared with general warm-ups only. But that is endurance racing how about for more of an anaerobic sport what happens than? A study by Marinho et al. found that a 60-m sprint after static stretching warm-up resulted in better sprint performances than dynamic stretching or without warming-up. What static stretching warming-up is, athletes, performed dynamic warm-ups and specific activities reduced the negative effect of static stretching. So, don’t give up on static stretching just do it in short bursts and perform some type of dynamic warm-up afterward to get the benefits of both.

Dynamic warm-ups are everyone’s bread and butter when it comes to warming up, it has by far the most positive literature on it in terms of a performance boost and should be the foundation of your warm-up design. Some of the downfalls to avoid that I see happen a lot is to keep it to a minimum. There is never a need for a 30-minute dynamic stretching routine, keep it to 7 minutes or less and focus on the key areas you will be training that day. Remember getting your blood flowing and core temperature up takes care of a lot of the perquisites of a warm-up don’t beat it to death and have it negatively affect your workout. Do not perform them in a ballistic effort, a lot of dynamic stretching looks fast in nature but you don’t want to rely on momentum to get the body moving, this study here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30326551 by Pambroris et al. showed that a more controlled dynamic stretch showed greater improvements in strength. 

If there is a long duration between your warm-up and your actual competition there has been evidence to show that putting on a jumpsuit or heating pads to keep body temperature up. In a study by Sargeant, he found that for every 1 degree Celcius reduction in temperature led to a 3% reduction in the muscle power of lower extremities. This can be very beneficial for athletes to know so that they can keep their body temp up and not negate the benefits of the warm-up.

I would recommend based on the research some type of general warm-up that lasts 5-7 minutes that increases the core temperature of the body. Followed up with some static stretching for really tight muscles but keep it to single bouts and short duration holds. Then I would do a 5-7 minute dynamic stretch where the emphasis is on a more controlled nature thinking about muscle activation and extended range of motion but not forced and not ballistic. Once done throw on some sweats to keep the body temperature elevated.

References:

Fradkin AJ, Zazryn TR, and Smoliga JM. Effects of warming-up on physical performance: A systematic review with meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res 24: 140-148, 2010

Marinho DA, Gil MH, Marques MC, Barbosa TM, and Neiva HP. Complementing warm-up with stretching routines: Effects in sprint performance. Sports Med Inter Open 01: E101-E106 2017

Pamboris GM, Noorkoiv M, Baltzopoulos V, Mohagheghi AA. Dynamic stretching is not detrimental to neuromechanical and sensorimotor performance of ankle plantarflexors. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 2018 Oct 16.

Sargeant AJ. Effect of muscle temperature on leg extension force and short-term power output in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 56: 693-698, 1987.

Takizawa T, Yamaguchi T, and Shibata K. The effects of short-duration static stretching of the lower extremities after warm-up exercise on endurance running performance. Movement, Health Exerc 4: 27-35, 2015

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