If you want to perform at your best — on the court, on the field or on the pitch– you need to know how to get your body ready for intense activity. Yet most people, even many high level sports people, don’t understand the basics of a good warm up.
So how do you warm up best? With some slow, sustained general body stretches, right?
Most studies show little or no benefit in a generalised, non-specific stretching program to prevent injury.
Scientific evidence indicates that active warm-up, as opposed to slow passive stretching, is the best injury preventative. In other words, get moving! So the puppy in the photograph could probably be doing things a little better!
You will also need to do some core muscle activation, and some sports-specific drills.
An example of an active warm-up that focuses on the leg muscles might include the following activities:
- A slow 400 metre jog to start the process
- Next, do a few minutes of light movements. These should concentrate on (a) relaxed gentle movement (b) all the way to the end of range (c) in each direction (d) for all your joints. Make sure that you move your spine and neck as well as your limbs. If you have any specific muscle imbalances or physio-prescribed exercises/stretches, now is an ideal time to work on them.
- Now perform some exercises to activate your core muscles (if you know how … if you’re unsure than please contact us directly). This is an important step to awaken them for the task ahead, which is unfortunately often omitted.
- Now move to an active phase. Start with half a dozen 40-60m runs at 50% pace, walking back in between. Slowly increase your stride length with each repetition. Activate your core muscles as you run.
- Add another half a dozen “run through” sprints of 40-60 metres, beginning at 50% pace, and increasing by 10% each repetition.
- Perform 3-5 backwards jogs over 20 metres, and then a similar set of sideways runs.
- Finally, add sports-specific skills (e.g. kicking: start at 20m, then increase to full strength over 20 kicks.)
By the time you have completed this warm up, your muscles and joints will be loose, your core muscles activated and ready to protect your joints, and your cardiovascular system will be ready to go. You’ll hit the playing field in peak condition, and not only will you help to prevent injuries – both short and long term – but you’ll be ready to fire from the first whistle.