The importance of warming up

After speaking with clients and fellow teammates, I have found that time isn’t always being taken to sufficiently warm up before physical activity. Warming up is an important part of injury prevention and athletic performance…

With the temperatures hovering around freezing, it is a good time to discuss the importance of warming up!

After speaking with clients and fellow teammates, I have found that time isn’t always being taken to sufficiently warm up before physical activity. Warming up is an important part of injury prevention and athletic performance.

Warming up increases body temperature, and has the following physiological effects:

  • increases the dissociation of oxygen for use by muscles
  • reduces the energy required to activate metabolic reactions in the body
  • dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to muscles
  • reduces muscle viscosity resulting in smoother contractions
  • increases sensitivity of nerve receptors and the speed of nervous impulses
  • increases the length of stretch and the force required to tear a muscle

Your warm up can be passive, like a hot shower or sauna, or active, like going for a jog on the treadmill or performing drills and movements specific to your sport.  Sport-specific warm ups provide the muscles with the opportunity for movement rehearsal.

Stretching is often included as part of warming up, and may be either static or dynamic.  Static stretching involves taking your muscle to the end of its available length and holding it there.  Dynamic stretching involves using active muscular contractions and momentum to lengthen your muscles.  Examples of dynamic stretches include:

  • Walking lunges – forward or diagonal
  • Lateral shuffles
  • High knee pulls
  • Skipping with high knees, using arms to drive forwards or upwards
  • Leg swings

Evidence supports including dynamic stretching in your warm up to improve performance. When compared to static stretching, dynamic stretching can improve vertical jump height, sprint time, agility, and other performance measures.

Adding a warm up before your sporting activities is a great way to help prevent injury and can enhance your performance, especially if dynamic exercises are included.  Ask your therapist for examples of warm up exercises specific for you and your sport!

References

  1. Shellock, F.G., Prentice, W.E. (1985). Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4), 267-278
  2. Woods, K., Bishop, P., & Jones, E. (2007). Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury. Sports Medicine, 37(12), 1089-1099
  3. Taylor, K.L., Sheppard, J.M., Lee, H., & Plummer, N. (2009). Negative effect of static stretching restored when combined with a sport specific warm-up component. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 12, 657-661.
  4. Little, T., Williams, A.G. (2006). Effects of differential stretching protocols during warm-ups on high-speed motor capacities in professional soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(1), 203-207
  5. McMillian, D.J., Moore, J.H., Halter, B.S., & Taylor, D.C. (2006). Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm up: the effect on power and agility performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(3), 492-499

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Posted by Ashley Fradette, MPT

Ashley enjoys working with clients to meet their individual goals and understands what is required of athletes in a variety of different sport and recreational activities. She takes a hands-on approach to treatment and enjoys using Manual Therapy to facilitate change. She also believes in the importance of educating clients and giving them the tools they need to be successful in their recovery. Book now →

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