Warm ups are viewed to served 4 primary purposes:
- Mental readiness
- Physical readiness
- Injury prevention
- Performance enhancement
Stretching is popular among runners and regularly advocated. Avoid static stretching immediately prior to activity, it is best done separately or following your workout.
Dynamic mobility exercises are much more beneficial in a warm-up as an athlete only needs enough mobility to fulfil the movement requirements of their sporting activity. Such exercises allow for more elastic movements involving a stretch-reflex response that are required for running, thus improving performance. It also minimizes the potential for injury.
A good warm-up should prepare the body for the movements and the intensity required in the session. It doesn’t not need to be time consuming or complicated, but it is an opportunity to address any movement deficits an athlete may have.
A desirable warm-up should follow the RAMP principles
*Raise ( e.g jogging )
*Activate ( e.g knee hugs )
*Mobilise ( e.g lateral leg swings )
*Potentiate ( e.g skipping, hopping )
Not necessarily in that order if you are an endurance athlete.
The aim of the ‘raise’ section is to:
↑ Body temperature
↑ Heart rate
↑ Respiration rate
↑ Blood flow
↑ Joint viscosity
Activate and Potentiate
Running requires good interaction between the body and the ground. The body applies force to the ground, absorbs it and generates force to propel itself off the ground again.
When the foot is in contact with the ground the limb needs to stiffen to load up and store elastic energy and then release it at the right time and in the right direction.
A compliant limb where the joints continue to bend and muscles stretch, as load is being absorbed can waste energy and can lead to lower limb injury.
The muscles around the hips have big jobs to do and need to be prepared for that. These include the gluteal muscles and hip flexors, and for some athletes with internal hip rotation tendencies – the external hip rotators.
Some ankle activation work is also useful particularly the ankle plantar flexors which should be pre-activated before initial contact with the ground to achieve optimal stiffness during mid stance phase.
This can be achieved by actively striking the ground with a vertical shin as opposed to just passively striking the ground.
It may be more effective to train good muscle recruitment and movement patterns first and then look to ‘activate’ the aerobic or anaerobic energy systems a little closer to the activity depending on race distance and individual needs. A Marathon runner may not need an intense warm-up, but a middle distance runner would benefit from priming their anaerobic energy system before a race with some sustained run efforts at race pace.
Potentiation movement drills activate the neural patterns required for running. These are usually fast movement patterns that include low-level plyometric exercises, sprinting and short foot contacts with the ground. Some hopping, skipping and ground reaction exercises and drills are ideal, followed by some short sprints/strides at close to maximum speed. Just one or two sets of low volume duration are required to help prime the system for the task in hand.
Drills work different planes of motion and really stimulate the central nervous system.
These aren’t meant to make you tired. Take your time so you can work on your form and technique.