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Physical Therapy

Warming Up

It is widely known and accepted in sports and exercise that a warmup routine is extremely important. Warming up before exercise can improve your performance, make you feel better while working out, and reduce your risk of injury. But what exactly is the best way to warm up?

It is widely known and accepted in sports and exercise that a warmup routine is extremely important. Warming up before exercise can improve your performance, make you feel better while working out, and reduce your risk of injury. But what exactly is the best way to warm up?

What actually happens when you warm up properly? (The science stuff)

Well, a few things. For one, the temperature in your muscles rises, which increases your muscle metabolism and the rate at which nerve impulses are transmitted through the muscle. The higher the muscle temperature, the faster your muscle metabolism and nerve impulse speed. But, these benefits level off after 10-20 minutes of activity. Even passively heating your body (for example, wearing a warming jacket) can increase your muscles’ metabolism, but this doesn’t provide the same muscle activation effects as doing an active warmup. This rise in core temperature has also been associated with increased power in the muscles, which means you can generate more force with dynamic moves. Furthermore, your muscles will be able to relax quicker between repetitive movements like when moving from hold to hold, thereby saving you energy.

So how do you warm up properly?

Some background info and how not to stretch:

1. Static stretching is a technique where you hold a position for a long duration with the goal of increasing your mobility. For example, sitting on the floor with legs straight while reaching for your toes and holding for 30 seconds is a static stretch. In other words, you lengthen a muscle once, and then hold that length for a set amount of time. Static stretching has been shown to actually decrease muscle strength in the short term, but it also lowers your heart rate and decreases your core temperature, which is the opposite of what you want for warming up.

2. Ballistic stretching is a technique where you extend a muscle to its full range and then perform small bounces at the end-range of a stretch. For example, if you sat in the hamstring stretch mentioned above, and then bounced towards and away from your toes in a small range. This technique has been shown to cause muscle tissue damage and is no longer recommended for any purpose.

3. Dynamic stretching is a technique in which you move actively through the full range of motion of a certain muscle. For example, clasping your hands behind your back and trying to lift the hands off your back repetitively would be a dynamic stretch for your pecs. Dynamic stretching is the best option for warming up since the constant movement helps raise your core temperature and metabolism, but does not render muscles inactive and weak.

Post-Activation Potentiation

Finally, many athletes also incorporate post-activation potentiation exercises into their warmup. Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is a phenomenon where the performance of the muscles improves after completion of maximal or almost maximal muscle activation exercises. The PAP exercises should look like the motion you are trying to improve. There are a few theories for why this occurs, possibly because more signals are flowing through the neurons that control the muscles. Other theories include that PAP encourages quicker reflexive movements controlled through the spinal cord, or that increased sensitivity of the muscle fibers to ions causes them to contract more easily, and relax more quickly, thereby allowing you re-engage them even more efficiently.

PAP exercises can be part of a warmup routine or a re-warmup routine between exercises or sets of the same exercise. Ideally, you would perform activation exercises 3-12 minutes before starting your target exercise to provide a short recovery for the muscles while maintaining the neurological effects. For example, doing a heavy squat or some box jumps before sprinting improves sprinting time because it activates similar muscles.

In summary:

So, when warming up, you want to increase your heart rate and core body temperature, and then activate the muscles you want to use. It is important that you don’t exhaust those muscles before you start exercising. There is a fine balance between activation and fatigue. This may require some trial and error on your part, since the amount of activation you need and the amount of time you wait before exercising after performing activation exercises varies from person to person. You should wear layers while warming up and between routes in order to maintain your core body temperature. Perform a re-warmup as needed to reactivate muscles that feel cold or stiff. Warming up regularly can reduce your risk of injury or re-injury.

Potentia Therapeutics is here for you to address concerns regarding preventing injury, healing an existing or old injury, and getting you back to 100%.

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