Warm up, when you hear it, it doesn’t instil much excitement, enthusiasm or enjoyment. Maybe because its linked to a one-dimensional steady state jog on the treadmill or bike that was used in the 1980’s.
Lucky for us, science has come a long way, as has our concepts of warm-ups. This 10min walk on the treadmill or bike now has been laid to rest, and the warm up has much more then a singular purpose of getting the heart rate up.
The purpose is to prepare the body for the rigours of training ahead, it is multi-faceted and specific to the desired outcome of each training session. Hence a warm up must be well thought out, well-reasoned and deliberately executed to yield the most positive benefits from the session.
General objectives of a good warm up. Firstly, if you are doing the old school 1980s 10min jog on the treadmill increase core temperature you are doing something. An increase in core temperature leads to a cascade of physiological benefits with regard to performance. This increase in core temperature leads to an increase in the disassociation of Oxygen to haemoglobin, meaning more Oxygen delivery to the working muscles and more CO2 taken away. Simply put, Increase work capacity and delayed fatigue within the session. Further, higher temperatures facilitate faster reaction speed in almost all metabolic reactions. Including those that metabolise fuel substrates for bio-energetic pathways.
Not only does heat facilitate a greater rate of energy production and utilisation it also facilitates greater neural impulse which, in turn, allows a higher frequency of impulses to be sent to a muscle which is key for the strength-based sport athlete. Along with an increase in elastic properties, highly beneficial for power-based athletes.
Further to up regulation neural impulses, stimulation and activation of specific motor patterns/movements and firing sequences at lower intensities prepares an athlete to utilise these pathways in higher intensity activities, this allowing us to reinforce technical efficiency or pattern any changes we are aiming to make prior to moving into more intense activity. It also is a leaning opportunity for athletes as they can be exposed to the degrees of freedom they will experience later in the session.
Also, we can use the warm up as a screening tool to asses how one is feeling for a current session and adjust appropriately. Any niggles or issues or movement faults can be ironed out prior to the opportunity for any real damage being done. While also allowing us to find our individual norms that we operate on.