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Like most people you probably do not pay a lot of care or attention to your warm up before exercising. A bit of walk to the front gate before your run or a few arm circles and swings then into the weights session or game of golf/squash or tennis!
One of the areas I put a lot of work into in designing programs for Olympic athletes is in the warm up. Often, I’ll put as much thinking into the first part of the exercise session as the main block of the training session. Every warm up is targeted and individual to both the athletes and the session.
A major part of an effective warm up is dynamic stretching. The aim is to lengthen and warm the muscles, but not with the typical static stretch (where you hold a position for 5 or more seconds). Dynamic stretching is a better way of getting ready for exercise than static stretching because it gets the muscles primed for the movements to come.
You should complete some movement at every major joint before training - shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.
Why do we out so much emphasis on this part of the warm up? Research conducted by the University of Wyoming and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in June 2008 strongly supports its use. The researchers wanted to examine the effect of the warm-up over a 4 week training program of 24 high level college athletes.
(Take note of the short time frame - only 4 weeks to see if it worked. I wonder if that was long enough to have a significant impact…?)
They divided the group into two. The groups used either static or dynamic stretching before daily practice sessions and measures were made before and after the 4 week period.
After 4 weeks, the static group had no improvements and some decreases in key performance factors. Remember, this is the traditional stretching method you may be doing currently.
The dynamic group showed some significant improvements in performance:
These are impressive results in a short time frame - achieved just by focusing on a more comprehensive warm up!
So if you could incorporate dynamic warm ups into your current training before sessions, it could produce long term improvements in Power, Strength, Muscular Endurance, Anaerobic capacity and Agility. Improve any of these factors you will be stronger, fitter and able to continue to increase the intensity of your training to get closer to your training goals - whether they be health, fitness or sporting goals.
This video features a good bundle of dynamic warm-up exercises for field-type sports
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