The warm up exercises are crucial to any sports or fitness training program. The importance of a structured warm up routine should not be under estimated when it comes to preventing sports injury.
Warming up prior to any physical activity does a number of beneficial things, but primarily its main purpose is to prepare the body and mind for more strenuous activity. One of the ways it achieves this is by increasing the body’s core temperature, while also increasing the body’s muscle temperature. By increasing muscle temperature you’re helping to make the muscles loose, supple and pliable.
An effective warm up also has the effect of increasing both your heart rate and your respiratory rate. This increases blood flow, which in turn increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. All this helps to prepare the muscles, tendons and joints for more strenuous activity.
How Do You Warm Up?
It is important to start with the easiest activity first, gradually building up until the body is at a physical (and mental) peak. There are four key elements, or parts, which should be included to ensure an effective and complete warm up. They are:
- General warm up
- Static stretching
- Sports specific warm up
- Dynamic stretching.
All four parts are equally important and any one part should not be neglected or thought of as not necessary, this way you can help ensure that you have a minimal risk of injury.
Very Important Rule!
Stretching is a crucial part of the warm up, but stretching is not a warm up.
Warm Up Recipe.
The four key ingredients that should be included to ensure an effective and complete warm up are:
General warm up
A general warm up should consist of a light physical activity (e.g. walking, jogging, easy swimming, stationary bike, skipping or easy aerobics). How hard and how long a warm up is based on your fitness levels. A general warm up for the average person should take about five to ten minutes and result in a light sweat.
The aim of the general warm up is simply to elevate the heart rate and respiratory rate. This in turn increases the blood flow and helps with the transportation of oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles whilst increasing your muscles temperature, allowing for a more effective static stretch.
This is a very safe and effective form of basic stretching. There is a limited threat of injury and it is extremely beneficial for overall flexibility. During this part of the warm up, static stretching should include all the major muscle groups. This should take about 10 mins.
Sport specific warm up
During this part of the warm up, you should apply a more vigorous activity should be employed. Activities should reflect the type of movements and actions which will be required during your sporting event.
Finally, a correct warm up should finish with a series of dynamic stretches. However, this form of stretching carries with it a high risk of injury if used incorrectly Dynamic stretching is more for muscular conditioning than flexibility and is really only suited for professional, well trained, highly conditioned athletes. Dynamic stretching should only be used after a high level of general flexibility has been established.