By Robert J. McMullin

Have you ever heard the saying "Warm-up to Stretch, Don’t Stretch to Warm-up"? All too often I come across athletes who don’t know the first thing about a proper warm-up. If I were to ask them to warm-up they will almost always go to the ground and get into a quad or hamstring stretch.

What’s wrong with this, you ask? I’ll tell you what’s wrong – YOU WARM-UP TO STRETCH, YOU DON’T STRETCH TO WARM-UP! Think of your muscles as taffy (I love analogies), when taffy is cold it can snap, or break, when handled. When it is warmed-up, it is more pliable, able to bend, twist and stretch. Your muscles work much the same way. Now, while your muscles may not always pull or tear when not warmed-up, you are putting yourself at greater risk for injury by not performing a proper warm-up.

What is a warm-up? A warm-up is an activity proceeding the main training session, which will increase your body temperature, thus enhancing your muscle’s elastic qualities. Such activities could be light jogging, jump-rope, elliptical, etc.

Warming up properly will prepare you both physically and mentally for the upcoming training session. Static stretching doesn’t increase body or tissue temperature, nor increase blood flow. As such, static stretching does not serve as a proper warm-up.

There are typically two parts to a warm-up: The General Warm-up and The Specific Warm-up. The General warm-up includes light jogging, elliptical machine, and treadmills, calisthenics, and stretching. The Specific Warm-up involves shadow boxing for fighters or lifting lighter weights before going into the working set for weight lifters. The length of each warm-up will depend on the athlete’s fitness level. Athletes should use this time to prepare themselves mentally for the training session.

So, next time you drop into a static stretch before your training session, make sure you have properly warmed-up beforehand!!!

The Benefits of a Proper Warm-up:
• Increase in body and tissue temperature
• Increase in blood flow through the active muscles
• Prepares the cardiovascular system for work
• Improves coordination and reaction times
• Increase in delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles
• Increase in CNS activity
• Increase in tissue extensibility
• Prepares athlete psychologically

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