"IMPORTANCE of WARM-UP AND STRETCHING"
By Ahmad Tousi, FIFA Licensed Coach


Warm-up is one of the most important elements of an exercise program. It is particularly important to prevent injury:
Warm-up is low level activity, such as a brisk walk or a slow jog, which should be completed prior to stretching and more strenuous exercise. The objective of the warm-up is to raise total body temperature and muscle temperature to prepare the entire body for vigorous activity. The warm-up period prepares the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, nervous system and the musculoskeletal system by gradually increasing the demand on those systems so that they are able to accommodate the demands of more strenuous activity.

Passive Warm-up:
The main goal of passive warm-up is to increase body temperature, either total body temperature or local body temperature, without physical activity. In passive warm-up the body temperature is usually increased by some external means, such as wearing heavy apparel, like a sweatshirt, and/or a massage with a topical exercise rub, such as Ben-Gay. One of the advantages of using a passive means of warm-up is that energy is not expended in the warm-up activity. However, for best results it's recommended that passive warm-up be used in combination with active warm-up.

Active warm-up:
Is composed of two types: general and sports specific warm-up. The general or non-specific warm-up utilizes low intensity movements such as walking or slow jogging general warm-up, involving low level activity, is usually more effective than passive warm-up in increasing deep muscle temperature. Specific warm-up exercises actually involve the body parts that will be used in the subsequent competitive event. An example would be swinging a tennis racket in a practice stroke.
The advantage of the specific warm-up is that the temperature is more effectively increased in the specific body parts that are to be used.

THE PURPOSE OF WARM-UP: PREVENT INJURY - ENHANCE PERFORMANCE
Experts agree that the main purpose of warm-up is to increase the blood circulation in order to raise both the general body and the deep muscle temperatures, which in turn help to heat up the muscles, ligaments and tendons in preparation for more vigorous activity.
A proper warm-up provide many benefits due to elevated temperatures associated with it. The likelihood of injury is reduced. Athletic performance can be improved. The warm-up increases muscle efficiency, reduces potential for muscle pulls, improves reaction time and improves the speed of movement of muscled and ligaments.
Proper warm-up can also help reduce the severity of post-exercise muscle soreness. The higher temperatures and increased blood flow resulting from warm-up are important for delivery of oxygen to the muscles and for prevention of build-up of unwanted waste products which can lead to muscle soreness.

INTENSITY and DURATION of WARM-UP

It is difficult to recommend specific intensity and duration of warm-up for every person, but most research in this area suggests an increase in body and muscle temperature of approximately one to two degrees Fahrenheit to be adequate. A brisk 5-8 minute walk or a slow jog will generally produce sufficient warm-up to prepare the body for more strenuous exercise.
The duration and intensity of warm-up should be adjusted according to the environmental temperature and the amount of clothing worn. The higher the environmental temperature and the greater the amount of clothing, the sooner the desired body temperature is attained. It is also important to begin a major activity while still warmed-up. Ideally, the rest period should be more than a few minutes. In any case, no more than fifteen minutes should elapse. When the beneficial effect of warm-up has dissipated, the muscle temperature will have returned to pre-warm-up levels.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WARM-UP and STRETCHING: WARM-UP THEN STRETCH

There is an important difference between warm-up and stretching. Many people stretch and call it warm-up. This is incorrect. It is important to warm-up before stretching. If one stretches the muscles without prior warm-up, the muscles are cold and are more prone to injury, such as muscle tear or strain. Before exercising, begin with a warm-up period to raise the body temperature.
You want to get the heart pumping and increase blood flow to the muscles before stretching. Slow running in place, a slow aerobic dance, or a walk-jog (all with ball), and the application of an external exercise rub, is an ideal warm-up regimen to help prepare the muscles for stretching.