Whether you consider yourself the Ronaldo of the local park, or the thought of running around for more than 10 mins brings a preemptive sweat to your brow, before any training session or competition you should always participate in a warm up routine. The warm up essentially prepares the body for physical activity by raising the bodies temperature, increasing the metabolic activity, increasing the heart and breathing rate and preparing the muscles and nervous system to prevent injury.
A thorough warm up will:
- Increase body and muscle temperature to increase muscle elasticity, making it contract and relax more effectively. This will reduce the risk of muscle strains or the likelihood of an overstretched muscle, as well as improving speed and strength
- Blood vessels dilate to increase the blood flow to working muscles and the heart. This makes metabolism more efficient by bringing more oxygen to the muscles, as well as helping the body cool.
- Improve range of motion around a joint, allowing movement that is less stiff and more natural.
A warm up should include:
- A gradual increase in intensity, allowing the body enough time to respond by increasing blood flow etc
- Sports-specific drills that replicate the movements required during a game
- A light stretch after the body has warmed.
A study by Herman et al (2012) investigated the effectiveness of different neuromuscular warm up strategies that do not require additional equipment, on injury prevention for young female and male athletes. Neuromuscular training programs are thought to improve joint position sense (reducing the risk of sprains such as rolled ankles), enhance joint stability and develop protective joint reflexes, ultimately preventing lower limb injuries \
Each strategy typically involved stretching, strengthening, balance exercises, sports-specific agility drills and landing techniques, and for the best results were completed prior to each training session for duration of longer than three consecutive months.
The results concluded that, The ‘11+’ and the ‘Knee Injury Prevention Program’ (KIPP) significantly reduced overall injuries and overuse lower limb injuries as well as knee injuries among young amateur female and male athletes. The ‘Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance’ (PEP) strategy reduced the incidence of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and the ‘HarmoKnee’ program reduced the risk of knee injuries in teenage female footballers.
Whilst these programs specifically target knees, the principles can be applied to all body parts and benefit all sports. The links to the programs are here: