Why a Quality Warm Up is Essential to Training
Anyone who has ever stepped foot onto a field, court, or into a gym has had a lowly voice in the back of their head saying "Yeah, I should probably warm up before I start today." And that's a good thing! Where it starts to get a little shaky however, is what ensues next. What usually follows? Five minutes on the treadmill? Some seated toe touches? The good ol' arm across the chest stretch? For many of us, this is our warm up. Many of us even use "warm up" and "stretching" interchangeably.
So, this is good... right? I warmed up AND stretched! I'm good to go now!
Well, not so fast. This may not be the case.
A lot of research has gone into what a good warm up for training can do to your performance; and the conclusion is, HOW you warm up affects how you play. You guessed it, both good and bad.
Let's take static stretching, for example. This is what pops into most people's head when they hear "stretching" or "warming up". In static stretching, you hold a slightly uncomfortable position or stretch for 10-30 seconds. Think bending over and touching your toes for example. Studies have shown that doing this before you work out can actually decrease your performance.. And pretty drastically too! Simic et. al showed in a mass study of all research on this topic that over stretching statically before you exercise can reduce your strength, power, and explosive performance (think pitching here) by up to 10% in the immediate bout of training that follows!
Now I'm sure you're thinking "c'mon, 10% isn't that much anyways." So let's put it into perspective. Let's say your bad warm up decreases your performance by a mere 5% (a very practical result, according to the research). If you normally throw 90 mph off the bump, this day, because of your "stretching routine", now you only throw 85.5... Think the scouts are going to enjoy seeing that? What about if your 60 time goes from 6.8 to 7.14? That would be the same drop off in performance.
Furthermore, stretching your muscles too much can actually increase your chance of injury. Stretching can put excess stress on this muscle fibers, predisposing them to injury during your actual activity.
Okay. so we've established that a bad warm up (this includes the Johnny-no-warm-up) can negatively affect performance. So what can a GOOD warm up do?
A good warm-up can:
- Increase your mobility and ability to perform sport related movements (think about getting your hips rotated fully in a swing / pitch, get into a better blocking position, or have better scap retraction)
- Increase your explosiveness (primed neural system)
- Prevent injury (an activated hamstring can help stabilize your knee and protect the ACL from stress)
"Okay, okay, fine... maybe I should pay a little attention to my warm up. A good warm up can help me perform better and keep me healthy, but, so far you've only discussed the bad warm ups. What does a good warm up look like?"
At Summit Sports Performance, we utilize several dynamic warm ups in order to prime our athletes for training and competition. We even individualize warm ups to each athlete, in order to ensure that every athlete's needs are met, and they're in optimal condition to compete.
Tune in next week for a discussion on how we prescribe warm ups for athletes - what your warm up SHOULD look like!
Simic, L., Sarabon, N., & Markovic, G. (2012). Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 23(2), 131-148. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2012.01444.x