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Designing an Effective Warm-Up

Designing an Effective Warm-Up

The warm-up is arguably one of the most important components of an athlete’s physical preparation, however can be severely neglected. The primary aim of the warmup is to prepare the athlete both physically and mentally for the task ahead, benefiting performance and minimising injury risk (3). An appropriately constructed warmup leads to an increase in muscle temperature, core temperature, and blood flow (4), which ultimately results in:

  • Faster muscle contractions.
  • Improved rate of force development (how quickly you can produce force) as well as increased reaction time. 
  • Improved muscle strength and power capabilities.
  • Lower muscle resistance due to increased blood flow.
  • Increased oxygen delivery to the working muscles.
  • Improved metabolic reactions required for the task at hand.  

Past warm-up strategies may have included a light jog around the oval followed by some half-hearted static stretching (stretching without movement). With the current research and knowledge surrounding the benefits, a warmup of this quality may not seem adequate, so, what does a suitable warm up look like? There are four main components of a warmup that we should be looking to target with every warmup we do for any sport. A simple acronym to remember is RAMP (4).

RAISE: 

In this section we want to do some light aerobic work to increase muscle and body temperature as well as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood flow, and joint viscosity (4). This could include jogging a lap of the oval or court, jumping on the bike or in the pool to do 10 minutes of easy riding or swimming, however, this time could be better spent on activities that are more movement or skill focused. Activities such as side stepping, grape vine, run throughs etc.may more closely reflect the demands of sport while still resulting in a light sweat and raise of heart rate (4). 

ACTIVATE:

Here we look to activate some of the major working muscle groups dependent upon the athlete and the sport (4). Some exercises that can be used that are often associated with prehab include using a mini band performing exercises such as a crab walk, clam or glute/hamstring bridge. Remember these are meant to be light exercises we don’t want to wreck you here; we want to prepare you. The extent of these exercises will vary depending on the sport and the athlete. 

MOBILISE: 

This is where we want actively work our muscles and joints through their range of motion, whilst also working through stabilisation on the opposing side of the body (2, 4, 5). Different to static stretching here we are looking to do this with movement (5). We are also looking to take the joints through movement patterns that are required of the sport/activity. For example, we might perform leg swings, inch worm, arm circles etc. As long as the joints are slowly and progressively taken through their range of motion. Other benefits to including dynamic exercises in the warmup include maintaining the effects of the RAISE section whilst also being far more specific to the sport/activity (2, 4, 5, 6). 

POTENTIATION: 

Potentiation refers to activities that result in an improved sport performance (1, 4). 

Now we start to get specific to our sport. In this section you might perform drills that teach the mechanics of the sport, progressing to the sport itself and even more specifically in a team sport exactly what you will be doing in that sport (1, 4). For example, with running you might perform some running drills such as an A march/skip, butt kicks and ankling before performing strides that progressively increase pace. You then might also perform some starts so that you are ready and firing to start your race. This will change depending on your sport and the position that you may hold within that sport. 

The most important aim of this phase is to is to increase the intensity and specificity of activities to a point where the athlete is ready to perform the task at hand (1, 4).  

Hopefully this will help you to create the best warm up for your sport, so you can be prepared and ready to perform at the top of your game. Not to mention also reduce your risk of sustaining an injury. 

References: 

  1. Bergh, U. & Ekblom, B. Influence of muscle temperature on maximal strength and power output in human muscle. Acta Physiologica Scandinavia. 107: 332-337. 1979.
  2. Cramer, J,T. Housh, T,J. Johnson, G,O. Miller, J,M. Coburn, J,W. & Beck T,W. Acute effects of static stretching on peak torque in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 18(2): 236-241. 2004. 
  3. Fradkin, A,J. Gabbe, B,J. & Cameron, P,A. Does warm up prevent injury in sport? The evidence from randomised controlled trials? Journal of Science, Medicine and Sport. 9(3): 214-220. 2006.  
  4. Jefferys, I. Warm up revisited – the ‘ramp’ method of optimising performance preparation. UK Strength and Conditioning Journal. 40: 15-19. 2008.
  5. Power, K. Behm, D. Cahill, F. Carroll, M. & Young, W. An Acute bout of static stretching: effects on force and jumping performance. Journal of Medicine, Science, and Sports Exercise. 38(8): 1389-1396. 2004.
  6. Unick, J. Kieffer, H,S. Cheesman, W. & Freeney, A. The acute effects of static and ballistic stretching on vertical jump performance in trained women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 19(1): 206-212. 2005.  

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