Can warm-up prevent injuries?
This is a question often asked by elite athletes as well as daily fitness participants. There is a widely held belief that static stretching (holding a stretch for a few seconds) before exercise will prevent injuries. However, research over the last several years suggests that a pre-exercise warm-up should not be simply static stretching. What, then, should it look like?
The answer, according to some Norwegian researchers, is with warm-ups that “improve strength, awareness, and neuromuscular control.” This means practicing coordination and control during a warm-up. While static stretching has its place in the fitness class (usually at the end), it is not a part of this type of warm-up, which I call warm-up mobilizations.
In a Norwegian study, the researchers compared injuries in over a thousand female footballers who participated in this type of warm-up for a season, to another group of several hundred who stayed with the more traditional stretching warm-up. The athletes who did the coordination and control warm-up had fewer traumatic and overuse injuries — and the injuries they did have were less severe. 1
What are the benefits of warm-up?
According to The CFES Group Exercise Instructor Course, a warm-up accomplishes all of the following:
Lubricates the Joints: While warming-up, synovial fluid is released into the joints and makes movement easier. This is accomplished by putting each joint through its full range of motion while using a variety of angles, lever lengths and speeds. This ensures full, yet gradual, lubrication.
Elevates the Heart Rate: The heart rate is slowly elevated through the warm-up. We begin with breathing and small, low intensity movements. We progress to larger and more intense movements, eventually using all major muscle groups.
Increases Nerve Impulse Conduction: As the body adjusts to faster and bigger movements, the nerves send impulses more rapidly, allowing muscle contractions to occur faster.
Increases Blood Flow: The muscles and tendons become warm, and they contract and relax more easily, as blood flow increases, allowing them to lengthen smoothly around the joints.
Allows for Rehearsal of the Movements: As the neural impulses travel down the same pathways repeatedly, the muscles remember the movements. We can move more quickly and efficiently if we repeat the movement several times. During warm-up, the body safely gets used to movements and increasing intensity. When cardio begins, both the body and the mind are ready.
Warm-Up is Essential
It would seem that the research is clear: warming up before training is a good idea.
- Don't be Late, Don't Leave Early
- Fitness Class Benefits
- Fitness Principles
- Fitness Class: Too easy? Too hard? How do you know?
- Fitness Equipment for Fitness Class
- Fitness Instruction for the Older Adult: BCRPA Guidelines
- Fitness Instructors: What They Know and What They Don't Know
- Fitness Principles: Rules to Live By
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.