Have you ever been instructed or advised to complete a quick warm up? Or get ready for the game and not sure exactly what to do? Warming up is widely appreciated as a fundamental aspect of physical activity, exercise, and sport. This article aims to explain what, why and how we complete an effective warm up. It will also explore the current literature and evidence surrounding the effectiveness of warmups for performance enhancement and injury prevention.
A warmup is essentially preparing the body to deal with the imposed demands of the activity that is about to be undertaken. This period of exercise is aimed to enhance the performance of subsequent competition or training. The other goal of an effective warm up is to prevent injury. Sports and recreational injuries form a major public health burden and therefore implementing preventative strategies, such as a warmup, can positively impact this burden.
A thorough warm up is specific to the upcoming activity and utilises key muscle groups and energy systems. The components of the warmup will increase muscle/tendon activity, stimulate blood flow to the periphery and enhance coordinated movement. Addressing these three components in a sport/activity specific manner will ensure an appropriate and effective warmup has been achieved.
What does the literature say?
Scientific literature forms an integral prong to evidence-based practice and the following systematic reviews have explored the efficacy of warmups for performance enhancement and injury prevention.
Fradkin et al., (2010) investigated the benefits of warming-up on performance during physical activity. This study found that performance improved significantly after a warm-up for a range of aerobic, anaerobic activities and sports. The study also commented on evidence where warmups did not have a positive impact on performance. For example, a set of star jumps did not aid performance in cycling or basketball activities. This highlights the importance of specificity when warming up to effectively prepare for the upcoming activity. There were also studies within the review which yielded a negative impact on performance due to inappropriate warmups. These included vigorous activity and weight training before running, as well as long rest periods between the warmup and activity.
Herman et al., (2012) explores the effectiveness of functional neuromuscular warm-up strategies for prevention of lower limb injuries. This review only included warmup programs that did not require equipment and therefore would be accessible to more individuals. The results of this study were overall quite positive for a range of different warm up protocols. The FIFA 11+ and Knee-Injury Prevention Program (KIPP) were found to significantly reduce the risk of overall lower limb injuries and lower limb overuse injuries. The ‘HarmoKnee’ and FIFA 11+ significantly reduced the risk of knee injuries and the Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) protocol significantly reduced ACL injuries in female footballers. These studies all incorporated a range dynamic, proprioceptive, strengthening and coordination movements in their warmup protocol. The results of the studies were limited by sample sizes to evaluate impact on specific injuries. Generalisability was also limited as participants were primarily within the teenage to young adult bracket. Nonetheless, the results obtained highlight the role of warming up for injury prevention. From this study, areas to incorporate into a warmup include dynamic stretching, strengthening, balance exercises, sports-specific agility drills and landing techniques. This review also reports increased compliance was linked to significantly reduced lower limb injury risk. This can be achieved by completing the strategy at every training session and game for at least 3 months.
The FIFA 11+
The FIFA 11+ is a complete warm up program aimed at injury prevention in soccer players. Soccer (Football) is the world game and is enjoyed by many around the globe. The nature of the game – running, sprinting, jumping, tackling, change of direction and kicking – results in a high incidence of lower limb injuries. The 11+ program was developed to combat acute, and overuse lower limb injuries experienced by football players. The protocol includes 15 exercises which can be easily executed without the use of equipment. These exercises focus on core stabilisation, eccentric muscle training, dynamic stabilisation, and plyometric exercises. As mentioned, this warmup is well studied and has been shown to reduce injury risk by 30%. Furthermore, the benefits of the warmup have also been found to be effective in other codes such as basketball. For an injury reduction benefit to be found, the program must be carried out at least twice a week for 3 months. To have a look at the FIFA 11+ warm up follow the link below or you can book in and chat to one of our physiotherapists!
McCrary et al., (2015) examines the role of upper body warmups on performance and injury prevention. This study found strong evidence for progressive loading and dynamic exercises to enhance power and strength performance. Another example of an effective warm up found for performance was completing practice swings with a baseball bat to enhance bat speed. Static stretching was ineffective for power performance, as was the use of hot or cold modalities. Dynamic stretching and longer duration static stretching may be able to be performed without adverse performance effects. Static stretching in upper body warmups that last less than 60s can be prescribed to enhance flexibility without impacting power and strength outcomes.
Silva et al., (2018) explored the role of warming up on explosive performance in team sports. This study found that a set of shorter sprints improved upcoming sprint performance. They also noted dynamic exercises after a period of jogging improved sprinting, jumping and agility performance. These strategies were accompanied by a period of rest (2-10minutes) before performance, and it was advised that this period should be no longer than 15 minutes.
What does all this mean for me?
Based on the literature, a warmup should be incorporated before physical activity to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. The warmup should be specific, easy to complete and prepare the body for the activity at hand. For example, if you were going for a run, this would include some light jogging to start with, some dynamic exercises to increase activity and coordination of the lower limb muscles and finish with progressively quicker efforts working towards training speed.
Check out our running warm up here and give it a go before your next run!
If you have any questions or want more information about effectively warming up for your sport or exercise, book in and chat to one of your physiotherapists!
- Fradkin, A., Zazryn, T., & Smoliga, J. (2010). Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 24(1), 140-148. doi: 10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181c643a0
- Herman, K., Barton, C., Malliaras, P., & Morrissey, D. (2012). The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review. BMC Medicine, 10(1). doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-10-75
- McCrary, J., Ackermann, B., & Halaki, M. (2015). A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. British Journal Of Sports Medicine, 49(14), 935-942. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094228
- Sadigursky, D., Braid, J., De Lira, D., Machado, B., Carneiro, R., & Colavolpe, P. (2017). The FIFA 11+ injury prevention program for soccer players: a systematic review. BMC Sports Science, Medicine And Rehabilitation, 9(1). doi: 10.1186/s13102-017-0083-z
- Silva, L., Neiva, H., Marques, M., Izquierdo, M., & Marinho, D. (2018). Effects of Warm-Up, Post-Warm-Up, and Re-Warm-Up Strategies on Explosive Efforts in Team Sports: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, 48(10), 2285-2299. doi: 10.1007/s40279-018-0958-5