Athletics: The Importance of Warming Up

By Travis Johnson –

Despite the fact that warming up is typically incorporated in pre-game rituals, many athletes – both young and old – do not realize its importance.  Often, kids show up just in time to start playing in a game, or they rush through pre-game warm ups to get to playing sooner. It is imperative that all athletes, but especially youth athletes, understand that warming up is a must, and they should take the time to properly warm up.

Travis Johnson

I work with local sports’ orthopedic surgeons, and many of their patients have injuries due to having a weak core and tight muscles. When I speak to athletes about how critical it is to warm up, I use a metaphor of cold and hot cheese.  A block of cold cheese is similar to cold muscles. You can’t pull or stretch cold cheese.  The same goes for cold muscles. Cold muscles aren’t mobile enough to be ready to perform during athletics. Cheese that is heated up is very easy to pull apart and stretch.  Warmed up muscles are similar to warmed up cheese.  Warmed up muscles are easily stretched and loose, which allows them to be prepared to play or used. So in other words, warming up increases athletic performance and reduces the risk of tendon or muscle tears.

As a certified Corrective Exercise Specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM CES), I have learned that static stretching does not improve athletic performance. Static stretching is beneficial after playing but could inhibit performance.  A dynamic warm up is more useful when it comes to preparing the body for performing athletically.  Dynamic stretches also target the same muscle groups and help with flexibility in a way that prepares tight muscles for athletics. For example, prior to dynamic warming up, start with a full body warm up, such as jogging or jumping rope.

If warming up prior to playing any sport is taken seriously and done effectively, athletes will be more prepared to play while decreasing their risk of injury. Dynamic warm ups not only decrease the risk of injury, but warming up correctly also increases athletic performance. Whether you are working out or actually playing in a game, dynamic warm ups are the best way to prepare your body for the demands of athletic performance. Your dynamic warm up shouldn’t take any longer than your traditional stretching warm up.  A dynamic warm up routine is more focused, effective and productive, which is what makes it better than traditional stretching.

As an athlete, dynamic warm ups will assist with flexibility, help with better balance and coordination and assist with increased strength. Decrease the risk of injury and be fully prepared for the demands that athletics put on your muscles by starting off with a full body warm up, then dynamic stretches and finishing up with dynamic exercises. Do not neglect your warm up routine. Get fit and stay fit!