A well-executed warm-up prepares the active, both physically and mentally, for the impending task that the training or competition entails. Properly covered, it will withstand a lot of adverse conditions. What is important to keep in mind when warming up?

The warm-up has a given place in all forms of organized sports and training. At the same time, the heating design is seldom given any major thought; the heating is often carried out “as it always has.”

However, many studies have examined how different heating parts affect performance and the risk of injury. This knowledge is good to know when thinking about designing a good heater.

This article goes through the different parts and purposes of warm-up and helps you get a well-planned warm-up tailored to the sport or activity you are going to perform.

The Basics of Heating

The warm-up aims to prepare the actors for the impending task. It is primarily about preparing the different parts of the body for the physical demands of the activity. But the warm-up also provides a mental preparation for the impending task, as it functions as a kind of ritual that creates focus and concentration.

In the long run, heating can contribute to improved performance and, in some cases, also a reduced risk of injury. Fundamentally, the heating should be adapted based on the activities to be performed.

This means that a light jog of eight kilometers may not even require any warm-up. In contrast, other activities require a long and specific warm-up so that the active person can perform well and that the risk of injuries/stretches, etc., does not increase.

Roughly speaking, heating can be divided into general heating, mobility, and branch-specific heating. Research shows that warm-ups that contain these components improve performance in, for example, team sports, ball sports, and racket sports.

There is also some research support for the various components of heating to reduce the risk of injury. But to have a clearer effect in this area, an injury prevention program (e.g., Knee Control, Shoulder Control, or FIFA’s 11+) should be included in the warm-up.

Below is a review of the three basic components of heating. A heating program often contains all three parts but does not have to. The content of the warm-up is governed by the activity to be performed and the requirements it sets.

1. General Heating

As the name suggests, warming is primarily aimed at raising body temperature. This, in turn, leads to increased blood circulation, and that energy production in the muscles can take place at a faster rate. The muscle fibers can also be activated and contracted faster.

The general warm-up usually consists of light jogging or cycling. A few minutes of a general warm-up are often enough for the body to reach a suitable temperature.

After 3-5 minutes, it has been seen that the body temperature increases, reaching a plateau after 10-20 minutes. The time it takes to reach a suitable body temperature naturally varies depending on what temperature you are staying in and how intensely you work.

In studies, general warming has shown a good effect on performance in terms of strength, resilience, and sprint distances. Still, the effect is not as clear in endurance work over medium and long distances (5–7).

On the other hand, the scientific support is limited in terms of the effect of general warming on the risk of injury. Some believe that the elevated body temperature increases the stretchability of the muscles, which in turn could reduce the risk of injury.

2. Mobility/stretching

The second component of the warm-up aims to improve mobility and usually consists of stretching. The goal of stretching is to ensure that the practitioner has sufficient mobility for the activity to be performed and to increase the stretchability of the muscles.

Some research supports that stretching can reduce the risk of injury to muscles and tendons, but stretching should not be seen as a universal method for reducing the risk of injury.

The injury-preventing effect of stretching has been investigated since the late 1990s, but it has not yet been determined to what extent stretching prevents injuries.

As part of a warm-up program, dynamic stretching is preferable to static stretching, especially if you will engage in more explosive movements. Dynamic stretching means moving in and out of a tight position (instead of keeping the body still), which helps prepare for activity.

However, dynamic stretching is not always as effective as static stretching to improve mobility. Those who engage in activities requiring very high mobility (e.g., ballet, martial arts, or gymnastics) should warm-up with both static and dynamic stretch.

Static stretching during the warm-up can, in some cases, impair performance, studies show, but the negative effect has mainly been shown when the muscles have been stretched for a very long time; sometimes 15-30 minutes for a single muscle.

If static stretching is limited to a maximum of 60 seconds per muscle group, the effect on performance is negligible. In addition, the negative effect seems to disappear when dynamic work is performed between the stretching and the performance moment.

An alternative to stretching is foam rolling, which has become increasingly popular. In connection with heating, foam rolling primarily aims to “soften” the muscles and increase mobility. Foam rolling provides a rapid improvement in mobility before the activity but does not affect performance. Furthermore, there is still no support for foam rolling to have an injury prevention effect.

Branch-specific Heating

The last part of the heating is branch-specific heating. This part of the warm-up focuses on preparing the body for the specific movements and steps in the upcoming activity.

Exactly what the branch-specific warm-up should look like therefore depends on sports. But there are a couple of general parts that can be good to know and possibly include in the branch-specific heating.

The Right Technique

One purpose of the branch-specific warm-up can be to practice the right technique. This applies to both exercisers and athletes. Even experienced athletes need to calibrate the nervous system to fine-tune their motor skills and thus perform to the maximum.

The branch-specific heating should therefore provide conditions for the action to pave the movements with the desired technology.

Activation Exercises

If you want to perform activities that place high demands on strength and explosiveness, it is possible to use the post-activation potential mechanism. Slightly simplified, a heavy or explosive activation exercise can trigger the nervous system.

The activation exercise prepares the muscles and nervous system to develop maximum force and can provide an acute improvement in flexibility, speed, and other explosive movements.

Roughly speaking, it can be thought that the activation exercise should be of sufficiently high intensity to give a positive effect on subsequent activity without contributing to increased fatigue.

The activation exercise should mimic the exercise or activity you want to perform and can, for example, consist of high-intensity sprints, jumping exercises, or heavy squats of about 85 percent of your maximum weight.

The activation exercise should then be followed by 1-10 minutes of rest for the acute fatigue to disappear, but it must not be so long that the potentiation effect disappears. How long the rest should depend partly on how strenuous the activation exercise was and partly on individual factors.

It is noteworthy that a performance-enhancing effect of the heating lasts only a few minutes. The longer the activity lasts, the less clear the possible performance-enhancing effect.

Excessive heating could even hurt your performance if the heating contributes to increased fatigue. Therefore, with all heating, it is important to find a golden mean between performance-enhancing effect and increased fatigue.

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