The most important tips for warming up

30. May 2018

Just as you shouldn’t sit down to a four-course meal with an empty stomach and start with the lavish main course, neither should you go from zero to one hundred within a few seconds when doing sports. You should instead do targeted exercises to prepare for the exertion. 

A good warm up ensures the body’s energy-supplying systems get into gear: not only is your breathing and heart activity increased, but so too is the enzyme activity in your muscles. As a result, the blood flow to your muscles increases, improving the oxygen and energy supply. At the same time, central brain structures are activated, which heighten your level of attention. A warm up stretches and lubricates the musculoskeletal system as your tendons and ligaments become more elastic and more synovial fluid is produced in your joints.

The basic rule for warming up

But how should you specifically warm up for a high-level physical performance? The length and intensity of the warm up will vary depending on the sport and performance level. Not all athletes need the same amount to get going. And not all types of sports need the same diligent warm up. Those wanting to explode into a 100-metre sprint just like Usain Bolt did before will need to do an extensive warm up beforehand comprised of gymnastic exercises, sprint runs, jumping exercises and sprints to ensure the bang of the starting pistol doesn’t coincide with a torn muscle. 

On the other hand, those planning a relaxed one-hour running lap on a Sunday morning can just simply start jogging at a comfortable pace. However, a holistic warm up with ABC running drills, arm circling and gymnastic exercises also has a positive effect here.

Basically, the following applies when warming up: first and foremost, the muscles that are of particular importance to the respective sport need to be brought up to working temperature. This is mainly achieved by doing typical discipline-specific exercises: marathon runners do sprint runs, racing cyclists get on their bikes, and swimmers get into the water. 

Warm up time of up to 45 minutes

For challenging exertions (competition, hard training, speed-strength training such as intervals, etc.) a warm-up time of 20 to 45 minutes is optimal. The more intensive the individual warm-up exercises, the shorter the duration should be, and the closer they should be scheduled to the start of the race. It is important to make sure that your muscles are warmed up but not tired.

The warm-up should ideally end five to ten minutes before the race starts. The muscles will retain their optimum temperature for this length of time, after which a significant portion of the positive effect will be lost again relatively quickly.




Age and the time of day are of decisive importance

Age is also a decisive factor. The older the athlete, the gentler the warm-up program should be. Older people should choose a low intensity and only increase it very slowly. This, however, will result in a significantly longer total duration.

The time of day also plays an important role. Since your physical performance capability increases during the day, the following applies: the earlier in the morning, the longer the warm up should be.

In running, an extensive warm up consists of running-specific coordination elements, such as skipping, skip hopping, criss cross jumps sideways, kicking your buttocks, and different forms of hopping followed by short sprint runs, sprints or running jumps. Additional gymnastic exercises for the hips, torso, upper body, and arms, as well as foot exercises or stretching are advisable. Effective preparation lies first and foremost in dynamic stretching, whereby static stretching should be saved for after the exertion.

Dynamic stretching puts the muscle into a starting position, in which you feel a slight pull. The stretching position is then modified with small, rocking movements. These movements should be repeated 10 to 15 times. In this way you can build up the required muscle tension in a warm up phase.

A marathon is a special case

Shivering at the start




A marathon is a special case, also when it comes to the warm up because at major city marathons in particular, you can only define the timing before the start to a limited extent and need to arrive early at the specified blocks. The most important basic rules:

  • When warming up, only do the exercises you know and don’t try out anything new just because the others are doing it.
  • The lower the temperatures, the more comprehensive the warm up should be.
  • The slower a runner is in a marathon or the greater the challenge the marathon poses, the less long the warm up should be so as not to squander important energy.
  • Those who start running according to their performance level and don’t take off too quickly can limit their warm up before a marathon to 10-15 minutes.
  • Those who shiver slightly at the start are wearing exactly the right clothing. Get rid of any unnecessary clothing before the start if possible. 
  • Those already sweating heavily before the marathon should cool down as much as possible (don’t lie or stand in the sun, choose light clothing, cool down in water if necessary)., ZVG