Secrets From The Track – Effective Warm-Up – P2

What is a warm up what are we trying to achieve?

Let’s get straight into it. The whole point and aim of warming up is to prepare the body for the imposed demands of the upcoming training session or competition. Regardless of which, we have to make every step, every rep and every action count. Now looking a little bit closer: why and how is the warm up going to help us achieve this?

Starting with the basics, everyone will know, during the warm up we need to increase heart rate, respiration rate, tissue temperatures and psychological readiness of the athlete. These kinds of things can be achieved through a general warm up.
When we start looking at the deeper reasons for warming up we can start to understand the real benefits it can have to performance. Warming up basically has the potential to amp up the system, specifically, it creates faster muscle contractions, more efficient contraction and relaxation coordination between agonist and antagonist, reduce the resistance/ increase extensibility of soft tissues, increase blood flow and therefore oxygen to the muscles, and increase metabolic rate. These can in turn improve strength, power, reaction time and rate of force development. However, to make sure this is happening in the correct muscles at the right time with the appropriate speed we need a tailor-made programme to target the specific muscles which are to be used in the physical activity about to be undertaken. This is where we need to introduce a specific warm up.

A general warm up will include low intensity exercises using general movement patterns which are not necessarily specific to the sport about to be undertaken. It will help to mobilise all the major joints and muscle groups of the body. The aim is to generate better movement through improving basic motor control and coordination of muscles.

A specific warm up will use exercises directly relating to sporting movements that will recruit and activate the same muscle synergies. Starting at a low intensity, exercises should be dynamic, activating the correct muscles at the right time and speed to take the joints through their required range of movement for the sport. Gradually build up to integrate some high intensity practice drills and skills ready to begin the activity.