Warm up – it’s not just stretching!
We are well and truly underway with the winter sport season and in the clinic we are starting to see more and more injuries that could have been avoided by an adequate warm up.
Time and time again we hear similar stories from patients who are nursing a new injury. “I was running late, so just got straight into the game” or “I did a few stretches to warm up”. Unfortunately, a few stretches aren’t enough to warm your body up (especially in the cold). Jumping straight into a game, without preparing your body first, is the perfect backdrop for sustaining avoidable injuries.
So, what is a good warm up?
A warm up should cover four main things:
- Warm you up – Time to get the body temperature and the heart rate up. This means you need to get your blood pumping – think running, high knees, butt kicks, side steps. To prepare your body for the exercise you’re about to do, you’re aim is to work hard enough that you can hold a short conversation, while breathing heavily.
- Prepare your muscles – Now that your heart rate is up, time to engage the muscles more specifically. Here you’re thinking squats, lunges, calf raises, bear crawls, push ups. You want to get all the muscles moving – so the first time they have to work isn’t when you’re sprinting.
- Do any rehab exercise you need to do – You’re already up and moving, now is the perfect time to do your exercises for any problem you might have (very often that old calf strain). This makes it easier to stay consistent with your exercises (the only way they will make a difference) and it activates those weak areas in preparation for sport.
- Sport specific – Now you’re almost ready to go, you can start picking up the intensity further, and adding in some sport specific skills – this might be doing some tackling drills, passing drills, footwork drills. This means that once you get into training or your game, your body (and mind) are fully prepared.
Where does stretching fit in? In your warm up, it doesn’t.
Stretching is designed to make your muscles lengthen, whereas to create power to run, jump and throw – you need your muscles to shorten. Stretching, in the short term, decreases the muscles ability to shorten – dampening your performance.
This means stretches are best left to the cool down.
If you need help with managing an injury through the season or creating a better warm up routine for your sport, book a physio appointment to sort it out!