Warm-ups are almost universally accepted as an integral part of any training session or competition, its goal is to prepare the athlete mentally and physically for exercise or competition. A well designed warm-up can confer a number of physiological responses that can potentially increase subsequent performance. These can divide into temperature – related effects (TRE) and non – temperature related effects (NTRE). TRE include an increase in muscle temperature, core temperature, enhance neural function and the disruption of transient connective tissue bonds, while NTRE can include increased blood flow to muscles, an elevation of baseline oxygen consumption, and post activation potentiation. Warm-up effects are best elicited via an active type of warm up rather then via passive warming techniques.
While the numbers of quality studies investigating the impact of warm up on performance is surprisingly low, studies generally show a positive impact on subsequent performance, this is an important factor to have in mind when structuring a good warm up.
What is also clear is that the major factors influencing the potential improvements are the structure of the warm up and the specificity of the warm up to the task to be performed.
An effective warm up has also traditionally been thought to decrease the risk of injury. While the influence of warm up on injury prevention is unclear, the evidence suggest that positive effects may exist.
Now knowing these things, we can have a better perspective of the influence of warm-ups in the performance on our training or competition, lets see now what are the components of a good structured warm-up protocol.
Its generally advised that a warm-up consists of a period of aerobic exercises, followed by stretching and ending with a period of activity similar to the upcoming activity. A traditional warm up program structure is built around these requirements and typically involves two key phases.
The first is a general warm-up period, which may consist of 5 minutes of slow aerobic activity such as jogging, skipping or cycling. The aim of this phase is to increase heart rate, blood flow, deep muscle temperatures, respiration rate, perspiration and decrease viscosity of joint fluids.
Following the general warm-up is the specific warm up period, which incorporates movements similar to the movements of the athlete’s sport.
Typically, it should last between 10 and 20 minutes.
One structure that has been adopted by many coaches and that address all of the key aspects of an effective warm-up is the RISE, ACTIVATE and MOBILIZE, and POTENTIATE (RAMP) protocol.
The first phase of RAMP involves activities that Rise the level of key physiological parameters but also the level of skill of the athletes. This phase is analogous to the general warm-up and has the aim to elevating body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow, and joint fluid viscosity via low intensity activities, but with differentiation that these type of activities try to simulate the movement patterns or skill patterns the athlete will need to deploy within the sport.
The second phase, Activating and Mobilizing is analogous of the stretching component of a typical warm-up. Key movement patterns required for athletic performance in both the subsequent session and in the athlete’s overall development, such as squat patterns and lunge patterns, are performed. The focus on mobility, or actively moving through a range of motion, requires a combination of motor control, stability and flexibility and more closely relates to the movements requirements an athlete will face.
The third phase, Potentiation, is analogous to the specific warm-up but importantly also focuses on the intensity of activities. This phase deploys sport-specific activities that progress in intensity until the athlete is performing at the intensity required for the subsequent competition or training session.
As we can see, the warm-up is an important part of any training session or competition, the aim of this article was to give a general review of the aspects that formed the warm-up, so all of us can identify and create our personal warm-ups.