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How To Warm Up

The importance of a 'warm up' is vital and is understood by most athletes these days. The trouble comes with, 'what is a good warm up?'

At Jon W Sports Injury we believe the best way to answer this is to think of the aims of a warm up.  We believe they are to increase the heart rate to the level that will be required for competition and to prepare the muscles for the force they will have to exert during competition.

  1. Firstly, a warm up should start off slow and gentle. Walking and bouncing are typical movements. The aim is to warm the muscles and encourage a good blood supply to the working muscles. The blood supply will provide the muscles with important ingredients vital for competition. When the muscles are warm static stretching can take place. Stretches must be held for at least thirty seconds. Although we often focus on the lower limb the upper limb and most notably the back should not be forgotten. Stretches for areas such as gluteals and hip flexors are often ignored but vital, especially in football. Recent research has stated that static stretching, if only completed prior to performance, will not directly improve performance. However, we believe that there is still a strong place for static stretching as part of a warm up for a continued stretching program and for psychological benefits, i.e. players like to stretch tight muscles prior to competition.
  2. Once this is completed the pace should be increased. Movements such as jogging and side stepping should be included. The aim is to elevate the heart rate to that required for competition. Dynamic stretching should be included in this part of the warm up. Research has found that dynamic stretching does have a positive impact on performance as it stimulates the muscles at a competition specific rate. In this section it is also important to increase progressive changes of speed and direction. These are the two main causes of acute injury. Therefore prepare the body, involve these in the warm up. However, it is important to slowly progress the magnitude of the changes in speed and direction.
  3. Next, involve sport specific work. If it is a football match use a football. It is important to activate the required muscles, e.g.  passing, heading, volleying. It is crucial that the previous heart rate is maintained.
  4. Finally-position specific exercises! If a striker will be shooting excessively, then have him hitting shots in the warm up. A defender may want to complete headers in the warm up. We believe specificity is vital to a good warm up.