For many years static stretches were the go-to warm up prior to sports. It was believed that stretching before sport and exercise would prepare the body for the activity that was about to take place and reduce injuries. In the past few years, this theory has been disproved. Static stretches have been shown to have no preventative effect on the occurrence of injuries in sport.
There is strong evidence to show, however, that an active warm up prepares the body for more intense activity and reduces the risk of injuries. It makes sense – warming up in a way that mimics the activity you are about to perform prepares the body for what is about to happen. It improves blood flow to the muscles, providing oxygen for efficient working capability and disperses byproducts such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. It increases the internal temperature of the muscles, allowing them to perform more effectively- especially important in the cold winter months. It is important that your warm up includes sport or exercise specific moves, targeting the exact joints and muscles that are about to be used. A great example of an active warm up for soccer players is the F-MARC 11+ program- a benchmark warm up routine that has reduced injuries in soccer players by 30-50%. You can find the manual for this via google!
It is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Static stretches still have a place in improving joint and muscle flexibility, but they just don’t have so much of a role as a warm up for exercise. Stretches are fantastic to incorporate into an active cool down routine, or to use on your rest days to maintain flexibility and keep you in touch with your body. You may also be prescribed certain stretches by your Physio or health care professional to target a specific joint or muscle group and it is important to complete these as a part of your rehabilitation. The main point here- to reduce the risk of injury in exercise and sport, it is important to complete an active warm up! Remember that if you are participating in ball sports, include kicking/catching/throwing/dribbling in your warm up exercises. Some general examples are listed below, but it is important to mimic movements you are about to perform, start slowly and build intensity as your body warms up.
At Enhance Physiotherapy, we can custom build a warm up routine that is specific for your sport or exercise regime. We can tailor it to aid in rehabilitation for injuries you may be recovering from, train you in specific strength requirements and help to prevent injuries you may be prone to in your field. We also offer running shoe checks, postural and functional strength assessments, taping, hands on therapy or general advice. Whatever it may be, we are here to help you get the most out of your sport and exercise!
All the best