Is warming up overrated?

Do you ever feel ‘slow’ to get into your workout?

Do you often feel like you only get in to the swing of your workout half way through? It could be that you didn’t warm up adequately for the exercise or for the sport you were participating in.  Is this because we think we don’t have the time, or is it because we are not quite sure what to do? Time is a precious commodity in this day and age, but the importance of a warm up routine should not be under estimated.

Firstly we need to refrain from thinking of it as just a ‘warm up’ but start to look upon it as ‘movement preparation’. By preparing your body effectively for training and competition, you are ensuring that you perform to the best of your potential and reduce the risks of injury. The first 10-15 minutes of your exercise regime can also be a valuable time to work on skills or maintain elements of fitness.

What does a warm up do?

Jogging around the block, or spending 10 minutes on a bike/ rowing machine prior to starting your workout, will most certainly serve the purpose of warming you up, however, you can make better use of this time to improve fundamental elements of fitness that will have the following positive effects on your performance;

– improve development of force and reaction time

– improve muscle strength and power

– decreased stiffness in the muscles and joints

– improve oxygen delivery

– increased blood flow to active muscles

How do I start to plan an effective warm up?

The thought of having to design a warm up routine may be daunting for some but it couldn’t be simpler. Especially if you remember the word ‘RAMP’. The RAMP theory of a warm up is a common format used by all strength and conditioning trainers. Breaking down the components of a warm up makes it easier to understand how a warm up can benefit us not only from an injury prevention point of view, but also to enhance our performance.

The RAMP theory of warming up:

Raise body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow and joint fluid viscosity – this can be done by completing calisthenic based exercises consisting of a variety of gross motor movements; often rhythmical and generally without equipment or apparatus, for example arm rotations, leg swings, squats, lunges, step ups, press ups etc.

Activate key muscle groups – this will depend on your needs for your specific workout, typically the use of resistance band routines can be quick and effective in stimulating target muscle groups, for example rotator cuff exercises, glute activation, overhead squats etc. This is a time efficient method of including these exercises in to your training programme.

Mobilise key joints and ranges of motion used in your sport/workout – this is where the traditional static stretch approach is replaced with dynamic movement patterns. This provides the athlete with a number of key advantages:

  1. The dynamic nature of the movement allows you to maintain the elevation effect you achieved in the first period of the warm up
  2. Movements are more specific to those found in your sport/activity
  3. More time efficient

Whilst static stretching has previously been a staple element of a warm up, it involves a relaxation period of the muscle. With the activation and mobilisation approach the aim is to actively work the muscles through their full range of motion, and in turn activating all the key muscles involved, both in the global movement and in the stabilisation of the body through the movement patterns being performed. We can save our static stretches for our cool down, where our muscles will be thankful for the relaxation period.

Potentiate – priming the body for the maximal intensities it will be required to produce during the session/ competition to follow. This phase gives you a window of opportunity to gradually shift towards the actual sport performance or workout itself and will commonly involve sports specific activities of increasing intensity.

Can you warm up for a running workout?

For running workouts, it’s common to work on speed and agility drills, as they provide a progressive potentiation effect (mirror image of what the body is expected to preform during the workout/competition) which at the same time provides a real training benefit to you as the athlete.

How do I warm up for resistance training workouts?

For resistance training workouts, plyometics (hopping, bounding, skipping), medicine ball and lighter or explosive resistance exercises can be used which provide a positive progression and stimulus to allow maximal effort in the first sets of the workout itself.

How does a warm up help to reduce the chances of injury?

Now that your have the body ‘firing on all cylinders; 

  1. The muscles have effective blood flow and oxygen for respiration
  2. The muscles and connective tissues are warm and supple to allow agile and dynamic movement patterns
  3. The joints are lubricated and moving smoothly
  4. The body is moving effectively as a collective unit

All of the above can in turn help reduce the risk of sustaining an injury during physical activity, and as we have spoken about, help to improve our performance within the workout/activity/competition we are about to participate in.

Article by Cally Morfitt – Lilliput Health Sports Rehabilitator