Nuke the Microwaved Warmup

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I was recently sent an article which implied shorter, less-taxing warmups are beneficial to performance. The lead researcher in the study,University of Calgary kinesiologist Elias Tomaras, apparently observed track athletes doing extended warmups prior to competing and hypothesized that their warmup might actually be doing them more harm than good by tiring them out prior to their performance. To test this idea, Tomaras looked at the effects of warmup duration on the performance of cyclists. In a controlled lab setting he found that shorter and lower intensity warmups yielded better performances. But before anyone jump on the band wagon of microwaved warmups, consider the following points:

  • Warmup protocols for training and competition may have very disparate uses depending on the goals of the day. The study seemed to only look at the role of warmups on performance. The findings can likely not be carried over to training. For example, training by its very nature introduces fatigue that results in a performance drop-off.
  • Furthermore, warmup demands for highly ballistic / elastic activities (like those seen in track and field, football, basketball, rugby, soccer, etc) are greatly different than those for lower intensity, non-impact activities like cycling, rowing and swimming.
  • The time needed to appropriately warmup for activities should be inversely related to the duration of the activity and proportional to the intensity of the activity. In other words, the shorter and more intense the competitive (or practice) activity, the greater the time demands to warmup for that activity should be. This is because the activity itself does not provide a period in which the athlete can warmup while doing it and the likelihood of acute injury is greater with more intense activities.
  • The warmup routine can be the ideal means of addressing the biomotor capacities that are not the focus of the day in a regulated fashion that does not undermine the training goals of the particular day.
  • The warmup routine can be the perfect opportunity to enhance general fitness levels and work capacities in a lower intensity manner that does not yield an interference effect for speed-power athletes.
  • Any athlete exposed to extended dynamic warmups repeatedly should quickly adapt to the load and find that it isn’t taxing due to the lower-intensity workload that comprises most of an appropriately structured warmup.
  • All warmups should begin with general activities and progress to more task specific activities.
  • All warmups should begin at a low intensity and gradually progress to more intense activities in preparation for performance.

For more guidelines on dynamic warmups for speed power athletes check out this video snippet:

The DVD can be purchased HERE.
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