Everyone knows that you should do a warm up. Run a lap around the oval, a couple of stretches and you’re good to go, right? Unfortunately it’s never as simple as that, and the warm up is something more important than we tend to give it credit for!
So why is the warm up so important, and what should you be doing to get the most out of it?
Here are 3 points to consider regarding your warm up.
To stretch, or not to stretch – that is the question.
Sitting in a circle going through some hamstring and quad stretches is a great way to have a chat before training, but according to the research, it’s not good for much more than that. Static stretching has been a point of conjecture over recent times, with current evidence turning towards a more dynamic warm up.
The reason for this is due to a decrease in peak performance and rate of force development (the measure of power for activities like sprinting and jumping etc.) in the period of time directly following static stretching. In other words – a warm up where you are up and moving is favoured over static stretching.
In saying all the above, if you are someone who has to religiously static stretch prior to activity, and just don’t feel ready to go until you’ve stretched, then by all means sit down and have a yarn. Just make sure to get up and follow it with some dynamic movements before you hit the track at full steam.
Taking a closer look at the Dynamic Warm up
A dynamic warm up typically involves aerobic exercise of low-moderate intensity, concentrating on engaging the muscle groups that are to be used in the upcoming activity. But how does a dynamic warm up actually help with our performance?
As we move in a more vigorous nature (such as a dynamic warm-up), there is an increased demand of the muscular tissue - leading to relative vasodilation (opening of the blood vessels). This results in an increase of blood flow and temperature to the activated muscles and surrounding tissue. With higher temperatures comes improvements in;
-Joint range of motion
-The stretch-shortening cycle of the muscular complex (ability to rapidly store and expend energy)
-Muscular contractile properties
-Amplified rate of nerve impulses
These all lead to improved short-term performance.
Click here for a video showing some great examples of dynamic warm up movements!
Mental Preparation – Is it worth thinking about?
Your team is down by 5 points, and you’ve just plucked a mark on the 50. You walk back from your mark and the siren goes….
The shot clock is ticking down, and your down by 2, you dribble to the 3-point line and prep…..
The scores are tied with 15 seconds to go in the 4th, you’re the GA and the centre launches the ball straight to your hands inside the D. ….
If you’ve ever thought any of these moments through in detail, counting the steps until you kick the winning goal, the follow through of your hand as the ball swishes through the basket on the siren, or as you drain the winning shot as GA, then you are now better prepared for that situation should it arise.
This is called Mental Preparation, and it is more important than we often give it credit for.
When we walk ourselves through imaginary scenarios and when we think about movement, our brain sends preemptive signals to our muscles to prime them for the movement that is about to occur. These signals are sent from an area of our brain called the premotor cortex. This is the same area we would normally use in order to initiate a muscular contraction. Studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between the required strength of the imaginary movement, and the amount of muscular activity. For example, imagining to lift a 60kg weight will induce more muscular activity than imagining to lift 10kg. As such, our thoughts can induce usage of the same pathway as actual movement.
To simplify this further;
by thinking through actions, we better create pathways and refine techniques without actually completing the movement – which is great to complete before games and competition. It is an alternate way to prepare our muscles prior to the game, and a great way to get a few extra shots at goal before the game begins.
1. Guillot. A., Lebon. F., Rouffet. D., Champely. S., Doyon. J., & Collet. C. (2007). Muscular Responses During Motor Imagery as a Function of Muscle Contraction Types. International Journal of Psychophysiology, Volume 66, October 2007, Pages 18-27
2. Ryan, E. D., Everett, K. L., Smith, D. B., Pollner, C., Thompson, B. J., Sobolewsk, E. J., & Fiddler, R. E. (2014). Acute effects of different volumes of dynamic stretching on vertical jump performance, flexibility and muscular endurance. Clinical Physiology & Functional Imaging, 34(6), 485-492.
3. Yapicioglu, B., Colakoglu, M., Colakoglu, Z., Gulluoglu, H., Bademkiran, F., & Ozkava, O. (2013). Effects of Dynamic Warm-Up, Static Stretching or Static Stretching with Tendon Vibration on Vertical Jump Performance and EMG Responses. Journal Of Human Kinetics, 3949-57.