No need to warm up!
Studies on warming up and particularly ‘pre-stretching’ muscle groups before exercise is one of these researches that throw Mr & Mrs Jo Average into disarray. The way in which research is reported is to blame and, unfortunately, can be held in the similar regard as headlines like ‘Eat loads of chocolate it is good for you!’
What we need to understand is that poor preparation before exertion can lead to a higher risk of soft tissue damage – strains and sprains. More severely for certain populations immediate high-level exertion of the heart can be fatal. So we need to be realistic and individualistic with our approach. Soccer players who are, from the kick off, going to be playing a high level of pace, speed and power for 90 mins need to take great care over their preparation. A good warm up does two main things Physical and Psychological preparation for what is about to happen to their bodies. The type of stretching they are bound to do on the pitch is sensible for them to carry out before the game commences.
Static stretches on the side of the pitch are not going to be as useful as dynamic type stretching i.e. a full range of movement at the hip joint when going through a kicking action. Some other stretches may be of use but of more value would be to warm up through drills and skills they are about to use in a game gaining greater motor control. Pre-stretches can be useful for some people who are not particularly bodily aware, as they will highlight areas of tension before activity. This will make the individual aware of certain movements they are about to make. The actual research was indicating no benefit towards a reduction of injury through static stretching pre-exercise and was even in some cases exacerbating issues for some individuals whose technique was very poor. May be obvious to some but pulling hard on cold muscles is not what pre-stretching is really about but, unfortunately, this is what still goes on at club level with some people.
Think about this; A sprinter before his 100m race, who would spend 10 seconds at maximal effort with huge forces going through his body, his preparation would be up to 90 minutes before going through drills, stretches and mental preparation. A Marathon runner who is about to compete for the first time dressed as a Rhino will take 5 hours to finish. He takes 10 minutes getting into his outfit and then walks the first 3 miles before taking a jog to the finish. Both have prepared well because neither of them pulled as hard as possible on cold muscles.
In summary muscles act similarly to chewing gum, take it out of the packet and pull hard it could snap. Play with it for a while; chew it for a while and it will stretch much further and risk reduction is reduced.
Remember the 7 P’s ……… Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents a Pathetically Poor Performance!