How long should I spend warming up before my sport and what is the best way to do this?

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One of the best ways to prevent injury is with an effective warm up prior to sport or activity. A proper warm up should be at least 15-20 minutes in duration and progress through a variety of stages. The purpose of an effective warm up is to increase heart rate and facilitate blood flow to the muscles to be used during the activity. This increase in blood flow, heart rate and body temperature improves the elasticity of both muscles and joints, alerts neural pathways and stimulates muscles in preparation for performance.

A warm up should gradually progress through four phases:

The first phase of a warm up should involve a low intensity cardio exercise such as light jogging or walking to increase the heart rate and to start getting blood flow to muscles. This should last for approximately 5-10mins.

The second phase of the warm up should involve dynamic range of movement exercises to loosen up the joints and muscles to be used. This phase of the warm up should focus on those specific body parts to be used for that particular sport. These stretches should be dynamic rather than static as static stretches will start to decrease heart rate and thus cause a cooling down effect – rather than a warming up effect which is what we are trying to achieve. Some examples of dynamic stretches could include lunges, squats, lower back rotations, trunk rotations, leg kicks, arm rotations etc.

The third phase of a warm up up should progress into agility, acceleration, deceleration and speed drills, preparing your body for faster movements that will be required for your particular sport. This should involve a gradual progression starting off at low intensity and building up to greater intensity. This phase of the warm up may involve for example, repeated strides, initially in straight lines and at low intensity and then progressing to change of direction and greater intensities.

The fourth and final phase of a warm up is the sport specific phase. This is where you perform the skills involved in your particular sport, initially at low intensity and then building up to greater intensity. For example footballers may perform running, jumping drills and kicking for goal, basketballers may perform dribbling, passing, shooting and rebounding etc. By the end of this phase you should be performing your particular skill at 100%, thereby ensuring you body is ready to perform the required skills in a match situation at 100%.

Warm Up Before Sport - Running

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