Maximizing Your Dynamic Sports Warm Up

In a previous post we highlighted the importance of a dynamic warm up to gradually increase cardiovascular work, improve mobility, decrease injury risk, and improve performance.  Conversely, traditional static stretching has been shown to reduce run, sprint, and jump performance in athletes.  Clearly, these static holds should be held until an athlete's cool down period after their practice or event.

The improvement in performance following dynamic warm up is attributed to a phenomenon known as post activation potential or PAP.  PAP is the improvement in the muscles and nervous system's ability to contract and perform immediately following a brief, short contraction of the muscles.  This dynamic contraction improves the communication between the nerves and the muscles, as well as, the ability of the muscle to receive commands from the nervous system.  One example of this would be utilization of plyometric exercises where one jump is immediately followed by a larger, faster second jump.  Many variables can influence PAP including intensity and duration of muscle contraction, an athlete's training status and the time between a dynamic activity and the performance of interest.  A recent article examined the impact of lunging, a standard part of any dynamic warm up, on jumping performance.  

Horan et al. examined 43 healthy adults (24 women) and measured the metrics behind their vertical jumps including height, peak vertical ground reaction forces, flight time, and others at both baseline and after a dynamic warm up consisting of multiple sets of alternating split squats (J Strength Cond Res. 2015).  The authors noted an increase in vertical jump height after up to 4 trials of 20 split squats.  The increase in jump height is thought to occur secondary to an improvement in the neural and muscular output of the lower quarter following the dynamic warm up.  

Athletes should utilize a dynamic warm up which reflects the demands of their individual sport to improve performance and reduce injury risk.  A lunge is an excellent lower quarter exercise for mobility and strength and can be utilized in multiple planes and directions of movement.  Consult your Boulder Physical Therapy experts for more information on how a dynamic warm up can improve your performance.