THE PERFORMANCE BENEFITS OF A WARM UP
Since we were children we have heard that a warm up is one of those things that is necessary to perform optimally. When we were little we warmed up in gym class and sporting events.
Warm ups commonly consisted of Jumping Jacks, Arm Circles, and lots, and lots, of running.
When we started racing BMX, we didn’t have our gym coach telling us what to do anymore. So our warm ups became a toe touch and a lap around the parking lot. You will occasionally see a rider doing some dynamic exercises, but by and large, most people head right to the gate and start racing their friends.
Is a warm up even necessary? For years we have been told to warm up, but does it make us faster? Well, let’s find out.
What should be included in a warm up?
Heat – Actually, a warm up is literally that… warming up. One of the biggest component to warming up is to bring tissue temperatures up to an optimal state. A warm body moves more freely and it takes less effort to do so (link to study here for you nerdy types). Nothing too fancy here, a quick jog, bike, row, etc… works pretty well here. Or, if you want to speed this process up, we can incorporate some other important aspects of the warm up to generate some heat by moving through my 5 stage warm up process.
Balance – This is something that just about no one trains, let alone incorporates into their warm ups before they get on track. It’s a little more than just standing on one leg. Balance comes from several different factors and systems within the body. Spend a minute or two trying to improve this. It’s way more important than people give it credit for! For some people, vision and balance drills can make profound impacts almost instantaneously.
Flexibility – When we think of flexibility, we often think stretching muscles. While I’m not in the anti-stretch camp, I do believe there are better ways to spend your time. If I stretch, I like to hit many muscles rather than stretch one muscle at a time. I also like to move in and out of positions rather than just hold a steady stretch for long periods of time.
Neural – Another thing that people don’t think about is just how important the brain and nervous system is on performance. In fact, it’s the biggest thing. Move well and move fast! I like jumps and sprints to charge to get you firing quickly!
Bike – Now that the body is up to temperature, balance is improved, we gained flexibility, primed our nervous system… it’s time to get on the bike! What’s important here is to build a practice strategy. Something that you can do time and time again to feel comfortable on the bike. However, you need to progressively build up to this. Rather than just jumping into the gate and drag racing people into the first turn, take a few minutes to finish your warm up.
Here is an example of my on bike warm up.
Here’s what we all came for. I have wondered myself… does warming up matter?
I tested a few key performance indicators for power to see what I could do before and after a warm up. I chose a vertical Counter Movement Jump (w/ no arms) to test my vertical force production. I also chose a Broad Jump to test horizontal force.
THEN A WARM-UP
The results are very clear, a warm up is essential to producing power. Vertical Jump improved 23% and the Broad Jump improved 15%!
Vertical Jump improved 23% and the Broad Jump improved 15%!
Obviously, we are BMXers and not long jumpers or high jumpers, but it’s safe to assume there would be some carry over to sprint times, jumping, manualing, etc. The benefits to warming up are not just limited to performance. Honestly, doing maximum jumps with cold muscles does not feel very good and is probably not a smart thing to do.
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