Warm Up Activities & Stretching Exercises
Warm up properly, and reduce the risk of sports injury!The warm up activities are a crucial part of any
exercise regime or sports training. The importance of a structured warm up routine should not be under estimated
when it comes to the prevention of sports injury.
The Warm UpAn effective warm up has a number of very important key elements. These elements, or parts,
should all be working together to minimize the likelihood of sports injury from physical activity.
Warming up prior to any physical activity does a number of beneficial things, but primarily its main purpose is to
prepare the body and mind for more strenuous activity. One of the ways it achieves this is by helping to increase
the body’s core temperature, while also increasing the body’s muscle temperature. By increasing muscle temperature
you're helping to make the muscles loose, supple and pliable.
An effective warm up also has the effect of increasing both your heart rate and your respiratory rate. This
increases blood flow, which in turn increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. All this
helps to prepare the muscles, tendons and joints for more strenuous activity.
Keeping in mind the aims or goals of an effective warm up, we can then go on to look at how the warm up should be
Obviously, it's important to start with the easiest and most gentle activity first, building upon each part with
more energetic activities, until the body is at a physical and mental peak. This is the state in which the body is
most prepared for the physical activity to come, and where the likelihood of sports injury has been minimized as
much as possible. So, how should you structure your warm up to achieve these goals?
There are four key elements, or parts, which should be included to ensure an effective and complete warm up. They
1. The general warm up;
2. Static stretching;
3. The sports specific warm up; and
4. Dynamic stretching.
All four parts are equally important and any one part should not be neglected or thought of as not necessary. All
four elements work together to bring the body and mind to a physical peak, ensuring the athlete is prepared for the
activity to come. This process will help ensure the athlete has a minimal risk of sports injury.
Lets have a look at each element individually.
1.) General warm upThe general warm up should consist of a light physical activity. Both the intensity and
duration of the general warm up (or how hard and how long), should be governed by the fitness level of the
participating athlete. Although a correct general warm up for the average person should take about five to ten
minutes and result in a light sweat.
The aim of the general warm up is simply to elevate the heart rate and respiratory rate. This in turn increases the
blood flow and helps with the transportation of oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. This also helps to
increase the muscle temperature, allowing for a more effective static stretch. Which bring us to part two.
2.) Static stretchingStatic stretching is a very safe and effective form of basic stretching. There is a
limited threat of injury and it is extremely beneficial for overall flexibility. During this part of the warm up,
static stretching should include all the major muscle groups, and this entire part should last for about five to
Static stretching is performed by placing the body into a position whereby the muscle, or group of muscles to be
stretched is under tension. Both the opposing muscle group (the muscles behind or in front of the stretched
muscle), and the muscles to be stretched are relaxed. Then slowly and cautiously the body is moved to increase the
tension of the muscle, or group of muscles to be stretched. At this point the position is held or maintained to
allow the muscles and tendons to lengthen.
This second part of an effective warm up is extremely important, as it helps to lengthen both the muscles and
tendons which in turn allows your limbs a greater range of movement. This is very important in the prevention of
muscle and tendon injuries.
The above two elements form the basis, or foundation for a complete and effective warm up. It is extremely
important that these two elements be completed properly before moving onto the next two elements. The proper
completion of elements one and two, will now allow for the more specific and vigorous activities necessary for
elements three and four.
3.) Sport specific warm upWith the first two parts of the warm up carried out thoroughly and correctly, it
is now safe to move onto the third part of an effective warm up. In this part, the athlete is specifically
preparing their body for the demands of their particular sport. During this part of the warm up, more vigorous
activity should be employed. Activities should reflect the type of movements and actions which will be required
during the sporting event.
4.) Dynamic stretchingFinally, a correct warm up should finish with a series of dynamic stretches.
However, this form of stretching carries with it a high risk of injury if used incorrectly. It should really only
be used under the supervision of a professional sports coach or trainer. Dynamic stretching is more for muscular
conditioning than flexibility and is really only suited for professional, well trained, highly conditioned
athletes. Dynamic stretching should only be used after a high level of general flexibility has been established.
Dynamic stretching involves a controlled, soft bounce or swinging motion to force a particular body part past its
usual range of movement. The force of the bounce or swing is gradually increased but should never become radical or
During this last part of an effective warm up it is also important to keep the dynamic stretches specific to the
athletes particular sport. This is the final part of the warm up and should result in the athlete reaching a
physical and mental peak. At this point the athlete is most prepared for the rigors of their sport or activity.
The above information forms the basis of a complete and effective warm up. However, I am well aware that this
entire process is somewhat of an 'ideal' or 'perfect' warm up. I am also well aware that this is not always
possible, or convenient in the real world. Therefore, the individual athlete must become responsible for assessing
their own goals and adjusting their warm up accordingly.
For instance, the time you commit to your warm up should be relative to your level of involvement in your
particular sport. So, for people just looking to increase their general level of health and fitness, a minimum of
five to ten minutes would be enough. However, if you are involved in high level competitive sport you need to
dedicate adequate time and effort to a complete warm up.