As a CrossFit Athlete, skier, runner, pickle-baller, or anyone in between, warming up is crucial to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance. There is a significant body of scientific research supporting the importance of task specificity and muscle activation during warm-up exercises to reduce injury and increase performance. Below we outline some considerations when choosing a warmup exercise.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences suggests that task specificity in warm-up exercises helps to increase neuromuscular activation and improve muscle recruitment patterns, resulting in improved performance. The authors found specific warm-up exercises improved performance in elite athletes by up to 3.6% compared to a non-specific warm-up routine. An example of a task specific warm up is banded PVC pipe front squats prior to performing an Olympic lifting workout.
Another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that warm-up exercises focusing on muscle activation improved muscle function and reduced the risk of injury. The researchers found that warm-up exercises that activated the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings reduced knee valgus (the inward collapse of the knee), which is a risk factor for ACL injuries. The authors suggest that muscle activation exercises in warm-up routines can help to improve muscle recruitment patterns and reduce the risk of injury.
Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that dynamic warm-up exercises improved muscle activation compared to static stretching. The researchers found that dynamic warm-up exercises, such as lunges and leg swings, improved muscle activation in the quadriceps and hamstrings, compared to static stretching. The authors suggest that dynamic warm-up exercises can help to increase muscle temperature, improve joint mobility, and enhance neuromuscular function, all of which can contribute to improved performance and injury prevention.
Overall, scientific research supports the importance of task specificity, muscle activation and dynamic movements in a warm-up routine. However, it can be challenging to design an effective and efficient warm up routine to both enhance neuromuscular function and prepare your body for the physical demands of your activity.
For ideas on warm up exercises please visit our YouTube page or set up a consultation with one of our physical therapists. At your physical therapy consultation, we can help design a warmup that considers the demands of your sport and your injury history. Schedule with us here.