Should we warm-up?
We’ve all been guilty of half-heartedly telling our kids to warm-up before they go play sport. Somewhere along the line we’ve been told that it’s important to prevent injury, but we don’t really know much about it and so we don’t enforce it. So, we should ask ourselves, do we need to warm-up, or is it a waste of time?
I’ve broken this blog into three parts so that you can find what’s most important to you.
Research for why we should warm-up. – Good exercise content in some links.
Principles of setting a good warm-up program
Framework of a warm-up. (Including an example)
Why we should warm-up
I guess the best place to start with warm-ups is to discuss why it’s termed ‘warm-up’. You probably haven’t thought about it much, but the word warm-up refers to an increase in body temperature. The body warms up due to muscle fibres rubbing against each other, metabolising fuels, and a dilation of the blood vessels. These changes help to increase blood flow and oxygen to the necessary muscles for the sport that you’re about to play!
Do Warm-up’s REDUCE Injury?
One of the most assumed pieces of knowledge about warming up is that it’ll prevent injury. So, here’s a little bit of evidence for you to prove that you were right in thinking it! The Fifa 11+ protocol is a 15-20 minute program originally designed for soccer players above the age of 11. It involves training exercises focusing on jumping, landing, running and strengthening drills. A new article assessed that this program can be extrapolated to kids from the age of 7-13 to prevent 48% more injuries and decrease the amount of severe injuries by 74%.
Link to Fifa 11+ Manual: http://www.f-marc.com/manual/
Do Warm-up’s IMPROVE Performance ?
The traditional view of a warm-up involves a brief period of low-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g short jog) followed by stretching and then sports specific tasks. A collation of studies looking at this criterion of the ‘traditional’ warm-up regime showed that warm-ups can ‘improve performance 79% of the time’.
The Principles of setting a good warm-up program
Another thing that most of the general amateur sporting population struggles with is knowing how to set up a good warm-up program and what principles should be included. In other words’ how do we create an appropriate warm-up program?
Dynamic Vs Static
What is your go to stretch? Is it to get into the butterfly position to stretch out the groin? Is it to pull the leg behind to touch you bottom? Or what about lying on your back and stretching the back of your leg with a towel? All these stretches are held in one position and are therefore called static stretches. When we think about stretching these are the first things that usually pop to mind. But are they the right thing to do before a sport?
The answer is actually no.
It is well documented that static stretches actually decrease the amount of power you generate. Instead to increase power before sport it has been proposed that a stretching program consist of dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches involve movement of the muscle through range.
The table below shows the dynamic version of common static stretches that we perform.
Static Stretch Dynamic Stretch
Hamstring stretch Leg Swings
Quad Pulls (Hip flexor stretches) Butt kicks
Butterfly groin Side lunge stretch, Open the gate, sideway swings.
Neck pulls Neck rotations
Progressive loading for warm-ups.
A study looking at upper-body warm-ups for upper-body sports showed that warm-ups need to factor in ‘LOAD’. They showed that high load dynamic warm-ups had overwhelming effects on strength and power and good effects on flexibility and delayed onset of muscle fatigue (the pain you get the day after sports). This was compared to ‘low-load dynamic warm-ups’ which resulted in no effect on performance outcomes. That means our warm-ups just like our gym programs need to be difficult, BUT be careful you don’t cause fatigue!
Framework of a warm-up
If you’ve missed everything so far, TUNE IN NOW. Based of the evidence, our warm-up should follow a simple framework:
Short aerobic exercise which focuses on freedom of movement.
Dynamic stretches focusing primarily on muscles involved in sport.
Dynamic strength exercises focusing primarily on muscles involved in sport.
Sport specific tasks.
(The Goal is to Progress intensity every month-to 2nd month)
Let’s look at how this may be applied for a junior rugby team.
Short jog around oval with arm swings. Keep ball in a small square field (no contact passing the ball) – 5minutes
a) Partner up – leg swings forwards and sideways, butt kicks, alternating shoulder hits,
Nordic curls for hamstrings, lunges for quads with rotation, banded neck exercises, Banded shoulder exercises
3 to a line passing across the line. Defensive line and offensive line – practicing dummy half play. Run through specific plays at 50-80%.
Infographic on ACTIVATE Injury prevention program. https://www.englandrugby.com/mm/Document/MyRugby/Players/01/33/00/33/ActivateInfographicFINAL(May2018)_English.pdf
Activate u15 warm-up regime: https://www.englandrugby.com/rugbysafe/activate/content/under-15/phase1-b
Rossier R, Junge A and Bizzini M et al. (2017) A multinational Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial to Assess the Efficacy of ‘11+ Kids’: A warm-up programme to Prevent Injuries in Children’s football. Sports Medicine.
ANDREA J. FRADKIN, TSHARNI R. ZAZRYN, AND JAMES M. SMOLIGA. EFFECTS OF WARMING-UP ON PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE: ASYSTEMATIC REVIEW WITH META-ANALYSIS Journal of strength and conditioning research.
J Matt McCrary, Bronwen J Ackermann, Mark Halaki. (2015) A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Allen H, National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal: October 1992 - Volume 14 - Issue 5 - ppg 25-27