by Mark Elmasry
Warm ups should start general and work towards more specific movements. As every athlete knows they will not perform their best immediately from an elongated resting position. Every exercise enthusiast that thinks they can get away with less than a minute’s worth of stretching and then expects to have the best results from a workout is misinformed
Benefits of Warming Up
- Speeds up recovery
- It improves athletic performance
- Helps prevent injury
To start an exercise or a sport we have to rid the muscles and joints of stiffness and pain. To do so we must inhibit the over active compensator muscles with a brief foam roll and myofascial manipulation session. We have to conquer muscle stiffness to get the proper responses, reactions and contractions out of our muscles. The most effective and best method is to then move through a dynamic stretching component or moving stretches. Going into further detail, we should start with slow moving static isometrics then work our way to dynamic mobility drills into faster moving drills with a larger range of motion. After that we can simply ramp up the warm up output into a few minute jog or bicycle ride or an even more sport specific movement for a an extended period of time at a low intensity. Warming up begins almost vaguely similar for all athletes, except for some specific athletes such as swimmers, who warm up almost entirely in the pool. After a general warm up is complete, then the subject can move on to more sport or task specific movements.
- Whether or not you are an athlete you must treat your exercise like you would treat a machine that needs to get warmed up. At first your “machine” will need to shake off all the cob webs and get circulation to certain areas that have been getting poor circulation since the last work out. When it comes to having that machine perform at a high level you would want that machine to be able to perform at that level for an extended period of time and not only for a short burst followed by a recovery of a few hours or so. When properly activating all the correct muscle groups your body can recover from each movement more rapidly than without a warm up. This quick recovery concept allows us to fire muscle contractions at a higher rate than normal and be able to recharge our energy systems as needed. Our 3 energy systems are long duration, oxygen using aerobic exercise, moderately high intensity (lactic threshold) lasting no more than roughly 2 minutes, and the rare and powerful short burst energy system called our creatine-phosphagen system, or our quick burst of energy lasting anywhere from 7 – 12 seconds.
- Having understood the value of firing up the “machine” correctly and allowing it to do more work than if demanded when it is cold, now we can grasp the concept of performing at a high level for a certain period of time. Let’s take an ice hockey player for example. Each hockey players shift lasts up to 50 seconds unless it is a dire situation and that player needs to stay back for defense in critical playoff game. How can a hockey player play his heart out for 50 seconds and asked to do it again? Well conditioning all energy systems allows him to do so but more importantly conditioning the middle intensity energy system and warming up properly before each period so that his “machine” can stay ready for each 50 second burst. Without doing so that player would move at a slow rate of contraction and have a slow reaction time and would only have the basic aerobic energy system to rely on which a hockey player never stays at during a hard shift. Not warming up properly also puts you at risk for injuries.
- Contracting muscles that are not properly activated and warmed up puts the relative joints and ligaments at risk for a tear or strain or worse a break or rupture. The muscles contract at many different speeds in every exercise or sport and need to be able to be ready for everything and have adequate blood flow to those specific muscles and the surrounding joints. Soccer players have to make multiple random direction changes at high frequencies followed by a burst of speed in a certain direction. Soccer players need to completely mobilize and warm up their toes all the way up to their mid-section for such a variety of movements and footwork or else most people who play soccer jumping into a game cold can severely damage a muscle or a small joint in their feet, ankle, knees, hips, and sometimes even upper body. Forget about soccer for a second and focus on warming up for an upper body exercise day. The person who does not warm up properly and mobilize their shoulders for the upper body day can injure their upper back and neck, and add to a deformity in their shoulders or tight chest that they already neglect.
Warm Up Sample
Warming up properly prepares your entire “machine” for the work you are about to do and for the duration of the workout. Warming up allows you to exercise or play at your best and stay in the game without needing to sit down immediately after starting the match, game, or the session. Finally, warming up prevents us from getting injured and from unnecessary strains and tears in tissues that should have been completely warmed up. Exercise scientists of all sorts will agree that a proper warm up is always necessary and is more important than the workout itself sometimes!
Mark Elmasry is an energetic trainer who will relentlessly do everything he can to help the people he trains get better on multiple levels. Learn more about Mark here.