Prepare Like The Pros – Warm Up Properly
Thanks to our guest contributor Justin Koch for contributing to this post. Justin knows what pros need. He has a background as a collegiate baseball player and subsequent certification in Functional Movement Screen (2012) and Selective Functional Movement Assessment (2013). In addition to being a physiotherapist with us, he has also been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
When an athlete’s livelihood depends on their body operating optimally, they know the importance of preparing well. One of the most important ways that both pro athletes and weekend warriors alike can prevent injuries is with a proper warm-up. Whether you’re preparing to run a marathon, lift weights, play a round of golf or join in the office shinny league, an effective warm-up can keep you in the game.
All good warm-ups should include some of the same key elements:
Prime the muscles
This part of your warm-up should be very specific to your individual limitations and the activity you are about to perform. Your physio can help you identify any areas that may need specific attention and your sport will often give you some big hints. I like to use foam rolling or trigger point release to prime key muscles. This type of preparation creates a neurologic reset that allows your muscles to work more efficiently. Think of how you may need to power cycle the computer when things begin to lag, and your mouse clicks don’t create the quick response that they should. Your body does the same thing – it can become less responsive to the inputs it receives. After a reset we can get a better and more efficient message being sent, received, and processed.
The most basic but often overlooked part – it’s right in the name “WARM-up”. Every warm-up should include activity that stresses our cardiovascular system. This means GET SWEATING. If you aren’t sweating (or at least breathing heavily) when you complete your warm-up then seriously reconsider what you’re doing. You can be confident that when you are sweating you have challenged your body to the point that it has shifted into a higher gear. In this state your heart rate is elevated, your respirations are more rapid, and your sympathetic nervous system is active. Your body is pumping more oxygen rich blood to the muscles that need it. In turn those muscles will be more elastic and responsive to the loads that they are about to encounter in your activity.
Dynamic movements not static stretching
The old school theory of stretching each muscle for 30 seconds or more in order to warm-up before sports has gone the way of the Dodo. Research has shown that this “static stretching” is unlikely to prevent injury (1). We also now know that static stretching can reduce strength and power output by 30% for up to 1 hour after stretching (2)!! So, what do we do instead?… Dynamic stretching! Dynamic stretching works muscle to the end ranges without creating changes to receptors in our tendons that affect strength and power. With dynamic stretching we take our muscles to their maximum length in a controlled manner and then quickly allow them to relax again. Think high leg kicks and shoulder swings. Static stretching still has a place but its not in our warm-up.
I sincerely hope that these warm-up tips help you to maximize your performance and minimize the time you spend with us due to injuries. Feel free to contact us or see us in clinic to develop a warm-up that is specific to you and your sport. Stay tuned for the role of static stretching and why it shouldn’t be avoided altogether. Running, playing and performing sport… Life Shouldn’t Hurt.
Grant Fedoruk and Justin Koch