Safe Sport Warm-ups: What You Need to Know

The athletic warm-up is one of the most contentious issues in sports medicine, reports Science Daily. Athletic coaches have differing opinions about the benefits, length and type of warm-up required for enhanced sport performance. Some even question the necessity of the pre-game warm-up, while others consider it essential to safety and performance. Somewhere down the middle lies the correct answer. Your physiotherapist can help you devise a plan.

The Purpose of an Athletic Warm-up

Athletic preparation is called warming up for a reason. Raising your body’s temperature enhances your muscle’s freedom of movement, but an ideal athletic warm-up does more than elevate your body temperature. Functional warm-ups serve as a dress rehearsal for the intended sport by activating the primary muscles used, as well as their associated stabilizers, says exercise physiologist and trainer Tommi Paavola, owner of Discover Movement. Warming up also stimulates an athlete’s mental state, along with her sense of proprioception, a word that describes an athlete’s awareness of her body’s relationship and orientation to the surrounding environment and conditions.

Understanding Muscle Contraction Theory

Muscle contractions gain strength and efficiency when they already have been contracting, Paul Laursen, a performance physiologist at the Millennium Institute of Sport and Health in Auckland, New Zealand, told “The New York Times.” During contraction, your muscles release calcium ions in the cells, and this facilitates stronger contractions. Contraction also heats up your muscle enzymes, causing them to improve performance efficiency. The muscle contraction theory might explain why elite marathon runners warm up with slow shuffles and lateral and backward running drills.

To Stretch or Not to Stretch: That Is the Question

Dynamic stretching uses momentum and large motor movements to increase your range of motion, says Sport-Fitness Advisor. When used as an athletic warm-up, dynamic stretching works best when the movements simulate the muscle actions specific to the sport. An alpine skier, for example, might perform flexing and extending ankle movements to prepare his feet for carving turns on the snow. A golfer, baseball or tennis player might move his upper torso through a series of rotational movements, and a sprinter may practice walking around the track while pulling each knee toward her chest.

As you can see, the athletic warm-up has its place, but there is no one size fits all routine. The ideal warm-up takes into account the muscles that will be used during the game, and the energy systems that will be utilised. Our sport physiotherapists have a deep understanding of different types of athletic activities. They can help you put together an appropriate warm-up.  Call Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 now!