Updated: Jul 12
Skipping warm-ups before your game? Bad idea! We have probably all been told that “you should do some warm-ups before doing your game”. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to see people skip warm-ups, or only doing a 30-second jog followed by a few insouciant static stretches, and then heading straight into intense training or a match. The consequences are usually underperformance, aches and soreness the day after, or the worst-case scenario – injuries.
What is a warm-up?
A warm-up is a short and light-intensity session that prepares an athlete physically and mentally for the upcoming exercise/sports.
Why should I do a warm-up?
A thorough, well-designed warm-up session has been shown to have positive effects on injury prevention and optimising exercise performance.
Warming up before a training session or game can:
increase body temperature to facilitate oxygen release from haemoglobin and myoglobin
increase your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood flow and metabolic reactions to allow adequate oxygen and nutrient to muscles, and removal of metabolic by-products
decrease viscous resistance in muscle, therefore improve rate of force production, muscle strength and power, and leading to better performance and lower risk of injury
Warming up before a training session or game can also provide psychological benefits.
increase concentration and coordination
decrease stress, tension and nervousness.
FIFA 11+ warm-up programme is a good example of a thorough warm-up routine developed for the sport of football, which has been shown to lead to a 30% reduction in injury occurrences. Young soccer players also showed notable improvement in standing long jump and Illinois agility test after four weeks of participating in the FIFA 11+ program.
What should I include in a warm-up session?
The “RAMP” model developed by Dr Jeffreys is an excellent framework to structure the activities in a warm-up session.
Raise: raising body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow and joint fluid viscosity via low-intensity activities e.g. jogging, cycling, star jumps, skipping.
Activate + Mobilise: activate key muscle groups, and mobilise key joints and ranges of motion used in the sport.
Potentiation: select warm-up activities that will improve the effectiveness of subsequent performance.
For warm-up activities, traditionally, static stretching has been an essential component, but its effectiveness remains debatable. In fact, there is very limited evidence that static stretching prevents injury. Research has suggested that static stretching can potentially compromise muscle performance including force production, power, running speed, reaction time, and strength endurance.
Dynamic stretching, which involves movements that mimic the upcoming exercise, may be a more suitable method given that it does not compromise performance, and has been shown to contribute to neural activation as the muscles are activated through the range of motion.
But static stretching might still be important for sports that require more flexibility such as yoga and gymnastics.
We'll use the basketball game example below to show how you can apply the RAMP model.
How to structure a warm-up session - five things to consider
Here are the five things to consider when structuring a warm-up session.
1. Type/nature/complexity of exercise/sports
What movements are involved?
What body parts are used?
For example, a high-intensity basketball training on an indoor basketball court for 2 hours requires an extended period of explosive running, jumping, rapid change of directions, body contact, and whole body movements.
Training vs game
Competitive vs social
The basketball example above is a high-intensity, competitive game.
Duration of the activity
Available time for warm-up
We have a 2-hour basketball game with 15 minutes available for warm-up.
4. Individual factor
Our players are fit and healthy, without any major injuries.
5. Environmental factor
Available space, equipment
Other participants e.g. friends, teammates, trainers, coaches
With our basketball game, there's plenty of indoor space, we have basketballs and there are other teammates and the coach present.
Applying the RAMP model, we can incorporate the following warm-up routine before our basketball game, remembering we have 15 minutes.
Raise – 2 mins
Jogging + dribbling 3 laps around basketball court
Star jumps 30s
Activate & Mobilise – 8 mins
Lunges and trunk rotation/lateral flexion
Zig-zag defensive slides
Arm & leg swings
Potentiation – 5 mins
Dribbling & lay-ups / pull-ups
If you have any questions about the best way to warm-up before your training or game, you're welcome to contact us on Instagram (@breathe.physio.pilates).
This blog was written by Bill Yu, fourth-year Bachelor of Physiotherapy student at University of Queensland, and basketball player.
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