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 allows your deep muscle temperatures to increase, which allows for increased flexibility. Research has found many other benefits of warming up, which Wikipedia lists:
- Release of adrenaline
- Increased heart rate
- Increased production of synovial fluid between joints to reduce friction
- Dilation of capillaries
- Efficiency of joint
- 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[/twocolumns]
TYPES OF WARM-UPS
Generally, three types of warm-ups are often seen: Passive, General/Non-Specific, and Dynamic/Specific.
Passive warm-ups involve increasing 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.” This combines preventive aspects of a general warm-up with performance-enhancing motions and activities, as well as with dynamic stretching. By putting chosen joints and muscles in constant movement, 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 for <insert sport name>” will yield an array of dynamic warm-up routines.
STRETCHING DURING WARM-UP
Traditionally, many general warm-ups 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.