WARM-UP STRATEGIES AND THEIR EFFECT ON PERFORMANCE: PART 1

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We are often asked: ‘what is the best way to warm up?’. So the next two blogs we will be exploring what the evidence tells us about various warm-up strategies and the physiological mechanisms behind them. There are a wide range of proposed strategies, adding to the confusion about which ones are best. Many have been considered an integral strategy for preventing injuries and improving performance despite limited evidence. Here’s a look at some warm up strategies and the evidence behind them.

THE STRATEGIES:

STRATEGY EVIDENCE
Static Stretching

Description: a sustained positioning of muscle on stretch, designed to increase length, reduce injury and improve performance.

  • Warm up containing bouts of static stretching results in small to moderate reductions in physical performance (strength, vertical jump performance, and sports specific drills ie. penalty kick).
  • Static stretching also negatively effects physiological parameters such as heart rate and core temperature- which may play a role in these decreased performances.
Dynamic Stretching

Description:exercises where momentum and active muscular effort are used to stretch muscles without holding an end position.

  • Dynamic stretching shows a moderate to large improvement in jump and sprint performance.
  • The higher heart rate and core temperature when compared to static stretching may be responsible.
Post-activation Potentiation (PAP)

Description:a phenomenon by which the force exerted by a muscle is increased due to its previous contraction

  • Studies have shown PAP to elicit small increases in jump performance, and large improvements in sprint performance.
  • Heavy tasks such as loaded squat and leg press have demonstrated such improvements over other warm up strategies including dynamic stretching.
  • The optimal workload, intensity, duration and recovery period remains unknown and appears highly individualised.
Re-Warm Up

Description:The practice of warming up at half time or between heats to attenuate the effects of cooling down/fatigue.

  • Traditional passive half time rest leads to impaired jump and sprint performance, lower heart rate and core temperature.
  • Re-warm up using agility drills (70%HR max) and vibration techniques can significantly attenuate decreases.
Passive Heating

Description:Passive strategies include, hot showers, baths, heated garments and blizzard survival jackets

  • An increase in muscle temperature of 1 °C can enhance subsequent exercise performance by 2–5 %.
  • Unlike active warm- up, passive warming permits an increase in core temperature and/or muscle temperature without depletion of energetic substrates.
  • One study showed passive heating strategies of increase muscle temp by 1 degree, combined with cycle ergometer warm up lead to a 9 % enhancement in both peak and relative power output during a sprint cycling task.
Psychological

Eg: Practices of mental rehearsal, visualisation and ‘psyching up’ to improve subsequent performance.

  • Athletes competing in various sports, such as water polo, football, golf and tennis , have shown improvements in task execution following use of prior mental rehearsal techniques.
  • Bench press force production can also be enhanced by ‘psyching-up’.

FIFA 11+

Description:The FIFA 11+ warm up program is designed to strengthen the core and leg muscles, improve coordination, balance, agility, static and dynamic balance, and reactive neuromuscular control. It’s a great example of a comprehensive warm-up routine that includes multiple key elements, and should be applicable to many sports.

  • Research has demonstrated significant reduction in injuries. Completing the program pre and post training (3 training sessions, 5-6 x program completed per week) has shown further reduction in injuries of the lower limb of up to 82% in soccer players.
  • The little available literature on muscular performance is also positive, with significant improvements in jump, sprint and balance tasks.
  • It also has positive effect on heart rate and core temperature.

SO HOW SHOULD I WARM UP?

 

Essentially your warm up should:

  • Get your core temperature and heart rate elevated
  • Get your muscle temperature elevated
  • Get your muscles activating in ways that mimic your sport, without pushing to a high level of fatigue.
  • Prepare you psychologically

Use this evidence to guide you, and play around with different strategies during training to see what works for you. Your warm-up may be entirely different to the person next to you, and that’s ok! A warm up you did today might be different to the one you did last week and that’s ok too. Maybe you were more fatigued physically or mentally today, maybe you had less to eat prior, maybe it was raining and cold last week and today its 40 degrees and sunny today. The point is, a warm up is highly individualised and highly variable. Without serious equipment to test your VO2 on a treadmill or the ability to take muscle biopsies or measure core temperature, it’s not realistic to aim for the ‘physiologically optimal’ warm up. So play around and see what feels good and seems to support good performance in training.

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