SCIENCE TALK: warm-up, do we need it?

First, lace your shoes and then start running, maybe slower at the beginning so the body will have time to warm-up, that’s enough? Right?

Warm-up…What? Why it’s essentials for runners?

The warm-up should be always included in the training session. Well performed warm-up increase blood flow, muscle temperature, core temperature and have many positive effects on performance. These effects are things like; improved reaction time, muscle strength and power, lowered viscous resistance in muscles, improved oxygen delivery, enhanced metabolic reactions.

The warm-up should take 10-30 minutes. As a runner, it’s easy to think that you can warm-up your body by jogging at the beginning. But think again, if you have planned 60 minutes good effort running session, and you start it by jogging 10 minutes you lost 10 minutes of good effort training. Or if you add that 10 minutes jog to your 60 minutes session, you use same muscles all the time. You also increase injury risk due to unilateral training. The warm-up should also active muscles that are not primary workers in running as strength training does.

Weight liftings recruit more muscle fibres than running. This neuromuscular stimulation sends signals to muscles that we don’t use during running. By stimulating these muscles we can recruit them to take part in running, this can provide more energy. Also warming up other muscles too, we wake up our whole body provide energy and increase blood flow.

Ramp protocol

Dr Ian Jeffreys and Mark Verstegen have developed RAMP protocol for warm-up.

R -raise, A-activate, M-mobilise, P-potentiate (modified variation)

  1. Raise
    • Elevate; body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow, joint viscosity
    • Drills (A-skips, B-skips, heel cycling, squatting, lunges, etc.)
  2. Activate and Mobilise
    • activate muscle groups that will be used, mobilise joints and range of motion for activity
    • balance work, mini-band routines, supermans, squats, spinal mobility exercises
  3. Potentiation (performance)
    • Increase intensity to a comparable level the athletes’ are about to compete in and improve subsequent performance utilising the effects of post-activation potentiation.
    • Plyometric exercises, sprints (0-20m) and short-moderate distance accelerations

how about stretching?

There is not much evidence that pre- or post-exercise static stretch improve performance or prevent injuries. Stretching is good for to return muscles length after it’s been contracted a few thousand times during the running. Whereas dynamic stretching is shown to be more effective and improve performance.

Take-home messages:

  • Always warm-up before a training session
  • Warm-up should be as important as the main session
  • Warm-up is not only preparing your body to train but also your mind
  • You should spend 10-30 minutes to warm-up
  • Perform lunges, squats, etc. without weights, the point is only wake up your muscles
  • Do not make many sets of one movement, you should not feel exhausted after warm-up
  • Above all make time to warm-up, in the long run, you won’t regret it

If you are unsure how to warm-up, Youtube is full of good videos for runners how to warm-up, they also explain how to perform drills.

Science for sports: a warm-up guide

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