Why do athletes need to warm up prior to physical activity? A cheetah doesn’t warm up before attacking the weakest gazelle in the pack. Maybe not, but we are not cheetahs. We are athletes who place a high amount of stress on our bodies to compete in sports. So we must be ready.
A good warm-up should be dynamic and specific to the activity for which you are preparing.
Four goals to achieve during a general sport Warm-Up
Increase the heart rate. Increasing the heart rate awakens all the parts of the body. The muscles demand more oxygen and energy. Easy ways to get your heart pumping are to run, jog, walk, skip, shuffle or jump rope.
Target specific areas. The areas you target depend on who you are and what activity you’re performing on a particular day. For example, most football or baseball players benefit from dynamic stretches to lengthen the anterior (front) side of their hips. In most cases, an increase in hip mobility will help the firing patterns of the hip extensor muscles (glutes, hamstrings and erectors). The Warm-Up below included some examples of dynamic hip stretches. Remember, dynamic means “moving.” Do not perform static (hold) stretches prior to activity.
Activate or “turn on” muscles. This will help you throw harder, tackle with greater force, hit home runs and run like the wind. You want to activate your glutes and hamstrings and the muscles around your calves, hips, shoulder blades and thighs. Perform activation exercises between bouts of movement to make the warm-up more efficient and effective.
Include a speed component. This does not have to be technical. Simply add some movement exercises that help with acceleration, maximum velocity, top speed or multi-directional elements—such as Straight Leg Bounds, Step-over Runs, A-Skips and Pro Agility.