We are always told that warming-up before a game can benefit us, but how often do you find yourself wondering, why do I have to spend so much of my time on it? Well the idea of the warm-up is to get the body fully prepared for the activity that lays ahead. When the warm-up is of a certain quality and length, it will produce physiological and psychological effects on the body. Whilst it has also been shown that a warm-up can reduce the risk of injury through stretching of the muscle-tendon unit; this in-turn allows for an increased stretch with less tension when exposed to an external load.
What are the two main types of warm-up?
- General Warm-up: This incorporates more general movements rather than specific movements. This type of warm-up will tend to use generic body movements and activities that are unrelated to the specific neuromuscular actions that are used in their particular activity or sport. An example of an activity that takes place in this stage is dynamic and static stretching.
- Sport Specific Warm-up: This is the application of big muscle group actions with rhythmic movements that provide a rehearsal of skill for the activity ahead. This is the performance of actions that directly relate to your sport examples are; throwing a ball to prepare for cricket or baseball, hitting a ball with your racquet for tennis and shooting a ball into a net for basketball or netball.
What happens physiologically during a warm-up?
Physiological effects can be defined as the effects that take place within the body.
A warm-up will produce a higher muscle temperature, an increase in local muscle oxygen availability, increase in the uptake of oxygen within the muscles and lower the blood lactate level. There will be an increase in blood flow around the body and muscles with an increase in oxygenated blood being delivered to the working muscles. This is due to the increase in heart rate, increase in stroke volume and an increase in breathing rate. This increased breathing rate helps to oxygenate the blood whilst also removing the waste products from the blood.
- Faster contraction/relaxation in the muscles
- There is a greater economy of movement in the muscles through the decreased viscous resistance
- Due to the higher temperatures, oxygen is released more readily by the haemoglobin
- Facilitated nerve transmission and muscle metabolism
- Increase in the blood flow through active tissues due to vasodilation
What effect does a warm-up have psychologically?
This is the effect the warm-up has on the mental aspect of physical activity.
Whether this helps to motivate the athlete or bringing a level of focus to their game. It has been reported that the specific skill based warm-ups consisting of movements or techniques involved in the chosen physical activity can improve accuracy and co-ordination. Further to this, there is a notion that preparation before completing the activity can sufficiently prepare the athlete to compete at their highest level without fear of injury.
Ultimately, it does come down to the athletes personal beliefs and feelings; if they believe that a warm-up is beneficial prior to their activity then their performance levels are likely benefit directly from a warm-up. However, if their belief is that a warm-up provides no true benefit to their performance; a warm-up may provide little to no effect, however, the risk of injury will be increased.
Structure of a warm-up
|Exercise||For How Long||Rationale for Use|
|Run or team based game||5-10 minutes||Elevates heart rate which increases the blood flow around the body.|
|Variety of dynamic stretches: squats, lunges, sidesteps, skips, bounds (naming a few exercises there are a wide variety available)||5-10 minutes||This prepares the joints and muscles for activity. Placing the muscle-tendon junction on stretch to prepare it for the external load. All of these exercises should be dynamic in nature with limited use of static stretching. The main aim is to maintain the temperature in the tissues so they are ready for the activity.|
|Sport-specific: These should have exercises that steadily progress through in intensity. For example, if the sport involves throwing and catching you would aim to start off doing small underarm throws and catches. This would then progress onto overhead throwing over a greater distance, with the view to then incorporate the running aspect to familiarise the body with the levels of co-ordination needed||5-15 minutes||This will fully prepare the athlete for the particular movements involved in their sport. This further helps to prevent injury whilst further incorporating the psychological effects previously mentioned.|