Through my years in Track & Field, I have always wondered, “Why do I have to warm up for about 1/3 of the duration of the whole training; is that necessary? Can I just sprint without going through all the various drills and dynamic stretches? The warm up is so long that I often get tired before starting the workout.” How much is too much then?
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A study by Hadden et al. (2004) compared the effects of static vs. dynamic stretching on explosive performances and repeated sprint ability after a 24-hour delay. They found that static stretching of the lower limbs and hip muscles had a negative effect on explosive performances for up to 24 hours post-stretching whereas dynamic stretching had a positive effect on explosive performances.
For me, warming up would consist of:
i) 5 – 10 mins jog – to increase the body temperature
ii) 10 – 15 mins of dynamic, calisthenic stretches – to reduce muscle stiffness
iii) 10 – 15 mins of drills – to prepare the muscles for these movements, as well as to reduce stiffness in the joints
iv) 2 – 3 strides with shoes/spikes – to stimulate the muscles for more explosive sprint forces
When I compete overseas, I see many styles of warm ups. There are sprinters who do not jog at all; they will walk around the track or grass, followed by strides immediately. Perhaps they might have warmed up somewhere else? Some other sprinters will be focusing just on the drills segment, doing ins & outs, back & forth on the grass. The unorthodox warm-up that caught my attention was from the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, at the IAAF World Championships, Moscow in 2013.
I was warming up religiously for the 100m heats with most of the other sprinters doing jogs, stretches and drills. Usain Bolt’s warm up was done on the massage bed with his sports trainer massaging his legs looking like a nice rub down post race. Usain Bolt did not step foot on the blue mondo track, let alone any drills or runs with his spikes. He reported straight into the call room to race! This is what I call the Fastest Man in the world.
Majoring in Sports Science & Management at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has taught me more about the benefits of a good warm up. It facilitates oxygen utilization, facilities nerve transmission, increases blood flow to the tissues by the increase in heart rate that pumps blood more rapidly around the body. I have yet to reduce my warm up duration these days, for fear of pulling a muscle which has happened before. I guess every individual adapts differently to the warm ups. There is no one right way to warm up. Choose one that suits your psychological readiness, your muscle warm-ness and most importantly, stick to that and develop a routine! I would love to try how Usain Bolt does it, but probably, the muscle strands and fibers in his legs are already roaring and ready to sprint anytime of the day!
Usain Bolt strides and runs a 10.10s as though it was an evening run down the park.