An essential part of sports safety is proper conditioning. With effective warm-ups, athletes can prevent injuries which could potentially keep them out of the game. Coaches and even Athletic Trainers should teach these skills and explain their importance.
BENEFITS OF A WARM-UP
The purpose of a warm-up prior to strenuous activity or competition is to both prevent injury and improve your athletic performance. Warming up promotes an increase of deep muscle temperatures, which then allows for increased flexibility. Research has found many other benefits of warming up, including:
- Release of adrenaline
- Increased heart rate
- Increased production of synovial fluid between joints to reduce friction
- Dilation of capillaries
- Joint efficiency
- The oxygen in blood travels with greater speed and at a higher volume
- Decreased viscosity of blood and within the muscle
- Removal of lactic acid
- Supply of energy through breakdown of glycogen
- Increase of muscle metabolism
- Increase of speed in nerve impulse conduction
TYPES OF WARM-UPS
There are three types of warm-ups usually used before practice and play: Passive, General/Non-Specific, and Dynamic/Specific.
Passive warm-ups help increase body temperatures through external means, such as a sauna, hot tub, massage, steam bath, or hot shower. While this type of warm-up may be suitable for someone with physical limitations, it is unlikely to greatly enhance the performance of an athlete.
General/Non-specific warm-ups offer more in the way of increasing the internal temperature of an athlete’s muscles. This routine should consist of light activity designed to slowly raise the heart rate and internal temperatures. Athletes and coaches should consider their subsequent athletic activity when determining the duration and intensity of a warm-up. General warm-ups can last anywhere from 10-20 minutes and involve activities which use the major muscle groups. Walking, jogging, jumping rope, cycling, or calisthenics would be sufficient.
Dynamic/Specific warm-ups are best suited for intense competition. The word “dynamic” simply means “in motion,” and combines preventive aspects of a general warm-up with performance-enhancing activities, as well as with dynamic stretching. By focusing on specific joints and muscles, an athlete is less likely to suffer injury and is also able to respond more explosively during competition. As simple Google search for “dynamic warm-ups” will yield an array of dynamic warm-up routines across a variety of sports.
STRETCHING DURING WARM-UP
Traditionally, general warm-ups often included physical activity followed by static stretching, that is holding a stretch for a minimum of 10-30 seconds. In recent years numerous studies have shown that static stretching should be eliminated from warm-up routines and replaced with dynamic stretching (constantly moving through a stretch). However, a post-workout cool down period is the perfect time to incorporate static stretching.