Warm up exercises – Concept and Importance

Introduction

Warming-up is typically defined as a mild, preparatory activity performed before participating in a sport or exercise.

It is characterized by a gradual increase in intensity of the physical activity, leading up to the final regime.

Key Phases

Experts’ recommend that you should start your warming-up regime with the easiest and most gentle activity, slowly moving on to more energetic activities, reaching the point where the body is at a physical and mental peak.

  • A properly designed warm-up schedule before a sport activity should have the following three structured phases:

Phase I – Aerobic exercises: These mainly include easy exercises such as jogging, cycling and skipping for about 5-10 minutes, in order to raise the body temperature.

Phase II – Stretching: Dynamic or static stretches can be done to stretch all the major muscles to be used in the sport. While dynamic stretches involve stretching movements at a gradually increased speed, the static stretches involve placing a muscle in its most lengthened position and holding for a minimum of 30 seconds.  Before exercise, I advise you to concentrate on dynamic stretches and after exercise and of course cooling down after, then static stretches can be incorporated.  Think of a muscle as a piece of spaghetti.  If you try to stretch or bend it whilst it is cold it will snap.  Once you warm it up however, you can manipulate it and make the most of it’s new found flexibility!

Phase III – Sport-specific exercises: Exercises specific to your sport should be carried out, such as short sprints, shooting drills, shuttle runs or the like.

The aim of the first phase is to raise the heart rate, which implies an increase in the speed of delivery of oxygen to muscles and temperature of the body. Meanwhile, the second phase is aimed at enhancing mobility and elasticity in the muscles. Lastly, the third phase aims at exercising the specific neuromuscular mechanisms related to the specific sports activity.  Those of you who regularly attend our circuit training sessions will realise and understand why we do such a thorough warm up before hand!

Warming Up – Importance

A regular warming-up schedule before a sport prepares the mind, heart, muscles and joints for the upcoming physical activity.

To begin with, proper warming-up prevents a rapid increase in blood pressure, improves blood flow to he heart, increases muscle temperature and makes muscles more pliable. It increases the blood flow to the heart and the exercising muscles.

Overall, warming up prepares the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, nervous system and the musculoskeletal system for the forthcoming physical activity.

Here I will briefly discuss the specific different aims, purposes and benefits of a warming-up schedule.

A)    Enhances performance: The main purpose of a warm-up schedule is to increase the blood circulation in order to raise the body temperature along with the deep muscle temperature. This further heats up the muscles, ligaments and tendons, leading to an overall increase in performance levels.

B)  Reduces risk of injury: Owing to the elevated temperatures, the risk of a sports injury gets considerably minimized. The muscles become loose and supple, thereby reducing the risk of muscle-pulls.

C)    Physiological benefits: A proper warm up schedule enables oxygen in the blood to travel with greater speed  and also leads to an increased production of synovial fluid located between the joints to reduce friction.

  • D)  In addition, the increased temperatures enable faster enzyme activity. With adequate warming up, you also experience an increase in the rate of muscle metabolism. Performers become more alert due to the increase in speed of nerve impulse conduction.
  • E)  Earlier onset of sweating: Warming up leads to an early onset of sweating, encouraging evaporative heat loss, which further leads to a decrease in the amount of heat stored by the body.
  • F)  Effect on the cardiovascular system: A warm up activity ensures that the heart and blood vessels get enough time to adjust to the body’s increase requirements for blood and oxygen.

The Exercises

There are different types of warm-up schedules that can be carried out to gear up different parts of the body for the upcoming physical activity. Here we discuss the main, or perhaps the most common amongst them:

i) Head Circles: Starting with your ear, near the shoulder on one side, rotate your head around to the front, ending with your ear near the shoulder on the other side. Once done, roll your head back to the other side. Repeat the whole process five to 10 times.

ii) Arm Circles: With one arm at a time, make a backward circle arm circle. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each arm. After this, make similar forward arm circles and repeat 10 to 15 times.

iii) Hip Stretch: Standing straight, take a half step back with your right foot. Bend your left knee and shift your weight back to the right hip. Bend forward more and reach farther down your right leg, keeping it straight. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with other side.

iv) Quadricep Stretch: Stand straight and hold on to a wall. Bend the right knee behind to grasp your foot, holding your heel against your buttock. Stand erect and push your knee gently backwards, as far as you can. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then change sides.

v) Leg extensions: With your face towards a support, hold on with both hands. Bend the knee, bring one leg forward and then extend and swing that leg back and behind. Repeat 10 to 15 times and switch legs.

Calf stretch,  and Cross-over Leg Swings are some of the other important warm-up exercises.

See also; what is stretching, why stretch-when to stretch, 10 tips on how to stretch

 

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