040416 A detailed look at the warm-up

A detailed look at the warm-up

All sports activities requiring muscular exertion benefit from a warm-up. A warm-up is a multifaceted series of organized physical exercises used to prepare an athlete for competition or a training session. Ideally, this preparatory phase will accelerate the adaptation of the body to the upcoming activity. This precompetitive/training session phase leads to improvements in performance both in the gym and on the field of play.

Physiologically, the warm-up transitions the body from a non-active status into an intense activity. This requires a certain amount of time to complete and involves the autonomic nervous system[1] and the central nervous system[2] (CNS). Therefore, the warm-up portion prior to competition or training should be efficient in preparing these two systems.

A thorough warm-up consists of three parts: general, dynamic stretching of the upper or lower torso, and movement specific.

The general portion activates the secretion of hormones that mobilize the glycogen reserves within the body and stimulates activity of the blood, blood vessels, heart and lungs. This increases blood temperature and intensifies the abilities of the capillary system in the heart, lungs, and muscles. This ensures adequate energy, through the blood supply, to all of the working muscles. The emphasis, in this part of the warm-up, is on the cardiovascular components of the body.

This activity of the autonomic nervous system increases the nerve center sensitivity, thereby raising the responsiveness of the respiratory and heat regulating centers in both the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems within the body. After making these physiological changes in the athlete, it is time to move on to more movement specific exercises, where engrams[3][4] are developed. An engram makes possible non-conscious, non-thought based, instant active or reactive movements.

The next phase of the warm-up consists of dynamic stretching of the upper, mid, and lower torso. This is not the time to be doing any type of static stretching. Doing so will limit your body’s ability to produce maximal force by up to 8%. The purpose of this portion of the warm up is to loosen up the joints but not make them so loose that they become lax as happens with static stretching. All of the movements should be pain-free and within the individual’s dynamic range of motion.

Moving through these exercises within three to five minutes prepares the athlete for the final portion of the warm-up, which directly involves sport or training session movements.

The final part of the warm-up specifically directs attention toward movement patterns that are integral parts of the sport or the training session. These exercises, performed at a low intensity with a gradual buildup of speed, further prepare the body for the heavier loads later on in the session.

For example if you are preparing for lower body training session, do 5 to 10 minutes of aerobic exercise until a slight sweat appears. Next, move into the dynamic lower torso stretches such as leg swings fore and aft, side-to-side full range of motion good mornings and finally bodyweight squats for 10 to 20 repetitions each.

The final portion of this part of the warm-up will be the actual squat or deadlift, starting out with the bar to groove the technique and then into 50% of the one repetition training maximum, not the competition max. After completing these repetitions, take one, or at the most, two more sets before getting to your final work out weight. Once the warm-up is completed, move up to your workout weight as quickly as possible without spending a lot of time with dinky weights.


Engram development; the vital component to success by Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Verkhoshansky, Yuri and Verkhoshansky, Natalia, Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches. Published by Verkhoshansky SSTM 2011, Rome, Italy


[1] http://www2.ivcc.edu/caley/107/lectures_unit_3/ans.html

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is an involuntary division of the nervous system that consists of motor neurons (autonomic neurons) that conduct impulses from the brain stem or spinal cord to cardiac muscle, smooth muscle and glands. These motor neurons are responsible for regulating heart rate, regulating peristalsis (smooth muscle contraction of the digestive organs), and the release of secretions from certain glands, such as the salivary glands in the mouth.

[2] http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2667

The central nervous system is that part of the nervous system that consists of the brain and spinal cord. Her

[3] :a hypothetical change in neural tissue postulated in order to account for persistence of memory—also called memory trace

[4] “An Engram is an effect or performance that is imposed upon the Central Nervous System through repetition. From Therapeutic Exercise for Athletic Injuries, Houglum. P.A. Human Kinetics 2001”[4]