Introduction to Dynamic Warm-Up

by NSCA's Guide to Program Design
Kinetic Select June 2017

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Interest is growing in warm-up procedures that involve dynamic activities and sport-specific movements that maximize active ranges of motion at different movement-specific speeds while preparing the body for the demands of sport training and competition.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book NSCA's Guide to Program Design, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.  

It is important for all athletes to warm up before practice and competition. A well-designed warm-up can mentally and physically prepare athletes for the demands of sports training and athletic events by increasing blood flow to active muscles, raising core body temperature, enhancing metabolic reactions, and improving joint range of motion (26). These effects can boost athletic performance by enhancing oxygen delivery, increasing the speed of nerve-impulse transmissions, improving rate of force development, and maximizing strength and power (2,5,45). Moreover, a well-designed warmup can set the tone for upcoming activities and establish a desired tempo for practice or competition. Indeed, warm-up procedures that are consistent with the needs, goals, and abilities of each athlete should be considered an integral component of every sport practice and competition.   

Although well-designed warm-up procedures can enhance athletic performance, reduce the risk of injury, and lessen the potential for muscle soreness after exercise (1,21,26), it is important to realize that warming up and stretching are two different activities. A warm-up consists of preparatory activities and functionally based movements that are specifically designed to prepare the body for exercise or sport. In contrast, the primary goal of stretching is to enhance flexibility. These distinctions are important because long-held beliefs about traditional warm-up procedures have recently been questioned. Some scientists and practitioners now propose that it may be advantageous to exclude static stretching from warm-up routines prior to sport training and athletic competitions (32,49,52,59).   

Interest is growing in warm-up procedures that involve dynamic activities and sport-specific movements that maximize active ranges of motion at different movement-specific speeds while preparing the body for the demands of sport training and competition (10,13,15,29,55). This chapter reviews the components of a traditional warm-up and examines the potential benefits of a dynamic warm-up. Although it discusses different types of warm-ups, this chapter focuses on the influence of dynamic warm-up protocols on athletic performance. It also discusses the proposed physiological mechanisms that may enhance the preparedness of athletes for sport practice and competition and outlines program design considerations for developing warm-up protocols that emphasize the movement requirements of the sport or activity.   

A traditional warm-up usually consists of two components. The first is a general warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise, such as jogging or stationary cycling, followed by several minutes of static stretching. The second is a specific warm-up that involves less intense movements similar to the sport or activity about to be performed. The purpose of this type of warm-up is to allow the body to gradually adjust to the changing physiological demands of the exercise session without undue fatigue. A general warm-up of basic exercises for the major muscle groups increases heart rate, blood flow, muscle temperature, and core body temperature, as evidenced by the onset of sweating.   

Static stretching exercises, in which a body position is held stationary for a predetermined period of time (typically 10-30 seconds), are habitually recommended by some sport coaches to improve range of motion within joints, enhance performance, and reduce the risk of injury prior to activity (30,36,46). However, conventional beliefs regarding the routine practice of pre-event static stretching have recently been questioned (48,50,53).   

Developed by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), this text offers strength and conditioning professionals a scientific basis for developing training programs for specific athletes at specific times of year. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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