5 of the best warmups for preventing muscular injury

Preventing muscular injury can be as easy as skipping rope at the start of your workouts ... photo by CC user somewhereto_ on Flickr

Most people turn up to the gym, or to 5-a-side football match, do a few stretches and then get stuck straight in to a serious workout. The problem with this approach is that your body isn’t prepared for the shock of cardiovascular exercise and certainly isn’t ready for any sudden or explosive movements from your muscles.

It’s called a warm up for a reason. One of the main aims of a warm up is to increase your body temperature, making your muscles and tendons more flexible and less likely to strain. Think of muscles like a ball of plasticine. Cold plasticine is difficult to manipulate and often snaps when moved about, where as warm plasticine is flexible and easily moulded. Stretching on its own is not enough to warm up your muscles, so you must perform a light cardiovascular activity in order to increase the temperature of the body by around 3 degrees.

Here are 5 of the best warm ups for preventing muscular injury…

1.SKIP ROPE

A great way to raise your body temperature quickly is using a skipping rope/jump rope. 5 minutes of skipping is enough to the get the blood pumping in any athlete. It may not sound like a long time, but 5 minutes of proper skipping it will absolutely exhaust you if you are not used to it. Start off with 1 minute of constant skipping and move up accordingly. The aim here isn’t the time it takes, but to get your heart pumping and increase your body temperature, so don’t overdo it. Skipping is one of the best cardiovascular warm ups that you can do because it not only gets your whole body moving but also increases your heart rate, which increases your blood flow, and in turn delivers extra glucose and oxygen muscles for energy production and repair for when you really get moving.

If you haven’t used a skip rope before then there is a simple tutorial here.

2. WGS

Once your muscles are warmed up and flexible, it’s time to start testing them out with some light stretches. If you’re ready, a perfect warm up should always include a Yoga Sun Salutation sequence, but as that may take some practice to perfect you may just have to settle for the world’s greatest stretch instead. Inspired by the Sun Salutation sequences the WGS (as it’s sometimes called) is relatively simple to perform and provides a full body stretch that is hard to top. It simultaneously engages multiple muscle groups, which is exactly what happens to your body during intense exercise or competitive sports. It’s not something that is easily described, so your best bet is to watch how to do it here.

3. SWINGS

Now that your muscles are warm and stretched out, you can begin incorporating some more movements into your routine. Swinging movements are a great was to gently start loosening up your muscles, tendons and joints ready for ready for activity. We’ve all performed these sorts of basic warm up activities at school, as they have been in use for many years. The usual swing suspects are:

  • Arm circles – starting with your arms out, making small circles that increase almost to full windmills.

  • Hip twists – rotating your upper body from left to right with your arms in the air.

  • Leg swings – either using a wall or ledge for support, start with both feet together and swing out each leg in turn, gradually increasing the motion range.

  • Arm Swings – we’ve all performed this one before. The arm circles end up in nearly a full windmill but the arms swings are the full windmills (skip this step if you have a history of shoulder injuries). You can mix this up by incorporating some circular hip movements or forward hip trusts into the motions to keep your whole body moving throughout this warmup.

4. DYNAMIC STRETCHING

Traditional static stretching, unless yoga based, is never as effective as dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches are multi-directional, well controlled stretches performed during movement. Having your full body in motion while stretching improves the quality of the stretch, improves the range of the stretch, as well as the response of surrounding muscles to the movement, and has also been proven to increase overall athletic performance. There are hundreds of dynamic stretch examples that you can perform online and here are a few great ones to look up::

  • Walking lunges

  • Walking leg swings or kicks

  • Walking knee lifts

  • Walking arm circles

Twists, bends and jumps can all be added in to any of your dynamic stretching routines to work through larger numbers of muscles.

5. MUSCLE MEMORY

The final part of your warm up routine should always be to mimic certain movements that you will be making during the actual exercise session. Footballers and tennis players often find that if they jump straight into a match without warming up, that it takes them a little while to get their touch and technique up to their usual level. This is because the neurological pathways to these movements have not been revisited for a time. Some studies suggest that even just running over the physical motions that you are about to undertake in your head improves performance and technique, but the best way to bring back your muscle memory is to physically run over actions that you will be making. If you’re playing football simulate kicking the ball, jumping for headers; if you’re playing tennis simulate some swings etc. Running over these motions also helps prevent the chances of muscle injuries as you will be stretching and increasing the motion range of the exact muscles that are about to undergo a vigorous work out.

An effective warm-up routine can moderate the risk of injury to your players and reduce your exposure to claims. For further risk management advice and insurance solutions – including personal accident and career ending injury cover – seek guidance from a trusted and specialist sport insurance adviser such as Bluefin Sport.

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