Warm Up Activities for Sports

Warm up activities prepare athletes for the demands of practice and competition. Exercises are intended to increase flexibility for skill execution, prevent injuries, and tune-up both mentally and physically for sport-specific game play. A traditional sequence of warm up exercises usually progresses from general to specific in nature:

1. General cardio activity to raise body temperature in preparation for stretching.

2. Static stretching and related exercises (e.g., PNF, assisted stretching) to increase mobility and range of motion for more dynamic activities.

3. Dynamic exercises, including dynamic stretching, and calisthenics that build toward more sport-specific activities.

4. Sport-specific activities, such as those involving practice movements, skill trials, lead up drills, and sport movements of increasing intensity and precision to fine-tune for competition.

In the recent past, controversy has arisen about the value of static stretching prior to exercise. In fact, the current popular view is that any preactivity static stretching is detrimental or even dangerous. Most overlook the fact that the research targets "acute" or immediate effects just prior to maximum efforts.

There are few studies that indicate that static stretching prior to a dynamic warm up is detrimental. The duration of the stretch, time lapse before performance tests, age, level of experience, types of sports, and many other factors affect the pre-activity preparation process and these variables can influence the findings of the research.

Many athletes continue to perform static stretching as part of their warm up exercise routine, while others use only dynamic stretching prior to activity. The bottom line is that each athlete must develop a routine that best prepares him or her for the demands of practice and competition.

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