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PostHeaderIcon Warm Up For Injury Prevention and Enhanced Performance

A proper warm up can not only prevent injuries, it can enhance your athletic performance and bring greater strength and fitness gains. I often hear older enthusiast tell me that they have to warm up more as they get older. However, I have been reading many studies on young athletes revealing that a proper warm up can decrease the chance of overuse and severe injuries.

A proper warm up consists of the following factors:

Kinesthetic Awareness: Use your warm up to help get you into a workout mindset. If your workout requires complex choreography or multiple muscle movements, use this time to rehearse those movements at a lighter intensity. Use this time to help the body memorize doing the movements correctly so you will not injure yourself when you add intensity or speed.

Mobility: Keeping your specific workout in mind, make sure that you have moved all of the joints that you will be using. If you are warming up for a field sport, then you will have to move those muscles in all of the planes of motion that it will be going. Your joints will release synovial fluids that provide lubrication. If you put pressure on your joints without warming them up, you can get joint injuries such as tendonitis and bursitis.

Stability: Many warm up movements are done specifically to engage your stability muscles. Our stability muscles contract in order to protect our joints and spine. During the warm up, we often activate these muscles in order to brace our joints. This is done in running and contact sports as well as in yoga, pilates and dance. People don’t always realize how important it is to activate the core while stretching in order to protect our tissues from over stretching or hyper extending. Activating the core also helps protect you joints from shock while running, jumping or weight lifting.

Circulation of blood, oxygen and heat: A “warm up” should gradually make you warm. It should increase your temperature. You should feel heat inside your body and even break a sweat. This will bring more blood to the muscles that you will be using, increasing reflex speed, elasticity and force requirement. This also lowers the risk of a heart attack and reduces stress to all of the systems in the body.

Muscle Fiber Recruitment: This factor is most important during resistance exercises. Injuries can occur if you lift the heaviest weight you can lift on your first repetition. The muscles tend to recruit cells one level at a time so make sure to warm them up with lighter weights, establishing the proper movement of the muscle, before you add the heavier weight. Other forceful movements such as running require proper muscle fiber recruitment. I use form drills such as skipping to teach my muscles to recruit the right muscles for the strenuous task of bounding off and landing on the ground. I find that when I do these warm ups, my knees hurt less when I run because it establishes kinesthetic awareness, stability, muscle fiber recruitment and circulation. I run with better form which improves my performance.

Handy Warm Up Tips:

Don’t overdo it:

Some work outs require longer warm ups than others. Just make sure that you don’t spend so much time and energy warming up that you have nothing left for the rest of your workout, especially if you are warming up for a competition.

Watch the stretching:

Depending on the type of training you are doing, static stretching may or may not be appropriate at the beginning of a work out. Some studies have shown that athletes such as baseball pitchers have a greater risk of throwing out their shoulders if they stretch too long before a workout. This is because excess stretching can cause the ligaments to relax which will take away from stability the joints need to protect the shoulder from over extending. Also, do not hold a stretch for so long that your body cools down due to lack of movement. Mobility exercises that move a joint though range of motion may be more effective than a static stretch

Remember that one of the goals of a warm up is to raise heat in the body. In general, it is not recommended to hold a stretch for over ten seconds BEFORE a workout. However, static stretching for at least forty-five seconds is highly encouraged during a COOL DOWN which should occur at the end of a work out. Stretching at the end of a workout lengthens out muscles that have been shortened from strength training. It helps release lactic acid build up that causes soreness, helps release stress and lowers the chance of heart attacks. Remember to cool down gradually, slowly lowering your heart rate before static stretching.

Make sure your warm ups match your workouts:

I’ve seen this scenario a few times: Someone who danced ballet for ten years decides to take up running as a sport. They use the same warm up for ballet as they use for running because it is the only warm up they have been taught. Doing this can interfere with proper running form because dance moves are different for running moves. This scenario can be true for people who use martial arts warm ups for swimming etc… Make sure that the warm up you are doing matches the specific workout you are going to do. Many warm ups have been scientifically studied to help reduce injuries in specific movements so it doesn’t hurt to do some research. In fact, in today’s information explosion, it is pretty easy to find out what these warm ups are via the internet. Also, I have saved myself a lot of time learning specific warm ups for specific workouts because I stopped using moves that aren’t necessary. Remember that this post covers warm ups in general but the types of warm ups you do really depends on the specific movements you are preparing to perform.