At Maximize Health Group, we often get asked what the best way is to warm up – to enhance performance and prevent injuries – before training, games and sporting events or for any physical activity.
Warm ups vary extensively and have changed drastically over the years. At Maximize, we advise the best way to warm up is to keep it simple, consistent and modified to the individual’s requirements. If you have an understanding behind the basic principles you can modify your warm up to any activity and situation. Remember, a warm up is preparing your body (and mind) for the activity you are about to commence and to enhance performance and prevent injury from that activity
Here are Our 5 Principles to Get the Best Out of Your Warm Up
Prepare the Cardiovascular System
With any sport or physical activity, the cardiovascular system will be required to increase its rate of activity. Therefore, a warm up is required to assist the body’s readiness for this increased rate.
Starting this process can be as simple as walking or jogging on the spot, taking a couple of laps around the oval or diving into the pool to do a couple of hundred metres of easy freestyle. The ultimate aim being, that throughout the warm up the effort will increase, raising the heart rate, increasing the breathing rate and breath volume, which prepares the body for increased oxygen uptake and makes ready the energy systems required for the activity.
For example, if your activity requires sprinting, then you would have run through some sprints by the end the end of the warm up.
Prepare the Musculoskeletal System
Any sport or physical activity requires the body to move. Therefore during a warm up, you need to get the body to move and emphasise the important movements required for your activity.
Yes, you will have to stretch, and most likely a combination of static (sustained holds) and dynamic (actively moving through range) stretches will be appropriate.
Also highly relevant is to get your body to move in the way your activity requires, which can be separated into parts and then combined. For example, if you are about to throw discuss, you could do some spine rotations and then add shoulder movement to it.
You must also add activities that replicate how your musculoskeletal system is expected to move. For example, if you are competing in a cross fit challenge it would be appropriate to complete weighted squats in your warm up.
Prepare for the Activity and the Skills required
Sport and physical activities all require particular skills and it is paramount to include these in warm up. Terms including kinaesthetic awareness and proprioception are appropriate to research but to keep it in the spirit of simplicity, if you need a skill in the sport or activity, complete these skills in the warm up.
This is as simple as completing passing drills if you are about to run on for a TRL game, or pace changes while keeping breath rate controlled in run-throughs for middle distance runners.
This is definitely a time in the warm up where you are attempting to prepare the body and the mind, connecting the two for optimal performance, and injury prevention. (A tip here is to practise raising your awareness and heighten your focus by this stage of the warm up. Connect the mind and body for best results. Simple right??)
This simple part of the warm up formula adds amazing results to performance and always prevents more injuries, but this step is often diluted or even missed, even by elite athletes.
If you are expecting your body to perform at its optimal level and prevent injury throughout the course of your activity you must keep it prepared. This includes warming up before returning to the field, warming up before your next event at your sports meet, or doing that stretch you know you need to do between efforts at training.
The body’s preparedness for the contest will ebb when not being stressed through your sport or activity and this can happen in a very short amount of time. In many cases, a matter of minutes can take your body out of its optimum performance state. (Important to note that this is also an incredibly important habit to reconnect the mind and body to get them both ready again to enter the fray)
This is just as important as the warm up as it prepares your body for recovery and ultimately assists in the next time you want to push yourself to the limits and not get injured.
This part can often be “successfully avoided” through lack of planned time at the end of the activity and lack of importance placed on it. So, do what you know you need to do and make the time, and place importance on, the warm down.
Please use these principles in the way they have been given, to provoke simple thought processes to stimulate you to take actions that will help you perform at your best and to prevent injury.
It is important to note that your “Warm Up” can begin days or weeks before the event and can include thought and actions around hydration levels, nutrition, injury management and treatment, and will require modification for your individual circumstances. The same goes for the “Warm Down” in that it doesn’t end when you take your boots off and get in the car to go home.
Maximize Health Group have been assisting athletes to perform at their very best for many years and wish to help you reach your goals and prevent injury. If you do have any questions in relation to the “Warm Up” please do not hesitate to contact us by dropping us a line or picking up a phone and our expert team will assist you.