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Diminishing Your Risk of Injury: Warming Up The Old Fashioned Way Or The New Fangled Way

What Makes A Good Warm-Up?

Going back as far as little league baseball and all the way back through to college wrestling, I remember spending 10-30 minutes standing in a circle with teammates counting off the seconds as we stretched individual muscle groups. In a lot of situations; fitness classes, extracurricular sports, professional sports, etc. not a lot has changed. And unfortunately, not a lot has changed despite new and better research/information being presented.

What’s the point of a warmup?

Some argue it’s to decrease the risk of injury and prepare you for whatever activity it is you’re about to undertake. Others argue it’s to increase heart rate and blood flow into the musculature. While more argue it’s to lubricate joints and allow the body time to make the necessary changes to accommodate increased activity.

None of them are wrong.

It’s all of these things.

Depending on your age, general level of fitness, activity of choice and numerous other variables your reason behind warming up is nothing that should ever have to be justified.

What we do know is that a warm muscle responds better than a “cold”, stiff muscle.

In the past, warm ups consisted of bouts of aerobic activity (jogging most likely) followed by a routine of static stretches. Static stretching involves placing the muscle on tension and holding that position for 20-60 seconds.

Quite a bit of research has come out over the last decade and a half refuting the belief that static stretching diminished the risk of injury. What the research revealed was that static stretching pre-sport/exercise actually lead to diminished strength and power output which you could argue INCREASES the risk of injury!

So is static stretching bad for you? No! It’s a great way to cool down the system AFTER a workout. It’s also great for active rest days. It’s just not ideal pre-workout.

So if static stretching is suboptimal what do you replace it with?

Dynamic stretching! The movement based warm-up has been shown to provide the same improvements in range of motion as static stretching while PRESERVING strength and power output. Some argue that regular performance of dynamic stretching can increase strength and power output while also improving oxygen delivery to the muscles being used further enhancing performance. Studies have shown that dynamic stretching can also improve jump height, sprinting speed and change of direction capabilities.

FIFA has been using dynamic stretching and warm-up programs and has shown an objective decrease in injury rates across the sports.

Ultimately, the goal of the warm-up is to prepare your physiology (tissues, systems, joints, etc.) for the demands of your chosen sport or form of exercise. It should engage the muscles that are going to be used and simulate the movements that are going to be used.

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