Warm-Up 101

Warming Up – What should you do before physical activity?

We’ve always been told that warming up before any kind of physical exercise is important. Although getting straight into a bout of demanding activity is certainly not recommended, there is always some debate on the do’s and don’ts of a warm up. Hopefully we can provide some clarification. What a warm up should include is a bout of submaximal activity, sport-specific drills or activities, and some form of stretching.

Static Stretching – Although there are benefits in increasing flexibility and joint range of motion with regular application (Harvey et al, 2002), there is no evidence to suggest that it is useful immediately prior to competition. Simic et al. (2013) would even suggest that there is a negative impact on muscular performance when static stretching is applied before physical activity.

Dynamic Stretching ­– Hough at al (2009) looked at the effects of dynamic stretch on a vertical jump and found that it improved maximal output compared to those that didn’t stretch. And as noted before, static stretching has been found to decrease overall muscle performance, despite its improvement in range of motion. Dynamic stretching is therefore more appropriate before an event if it involves high levels of force output or athleticism because it provides a gain in range of motion without the decrease in muscular performance (Bacurau et al, 2009).

Foam Rolling – Although conducted on a small number of subjects, Peakcock et al, (2014) concluded that foam rolling increased flexibility without having negative impacts on power, agility, strength and speed, making it an ideal inclusion in any warm up.

Training Drills – This goes without saying. Your warm up should always consist of sport specific training drills. It helps prepare your body, but more importantly your mind, for the movements that the activity requires.

Massage – Massage before events has been debated as to whether it improves performance or not, and through much of the research we conducted, it is not beneficial as apart of a warm up protocol if your sport involves explosive activity. Arabaci (2008) found that there is a decrease in peak strength and power output immediately post massage, as you might expect if you’ve received a treatment at Health Place and is in line with our post treatment advice. With this being said, these tests were conducted immediately post treatment and could be argued that lying down for any amount of time would be detrimental to the tests completed.

So, based on this, what should you do? Our advice is to foam roll, followed by dynamic stretching and lastly, finish with training drills. This combination and order of exercises will see an increase in range of motion, peak muscular performance, all while not having any negative side effects. Static stretching and massage should be conducted in the hours leading up to an event, before the warm up even starts, and of course used regularly to maintain and improve muscular performance.



Harvey, L., Herbert, R. and Crosbie, J. (2002), Does stretching induce lasting increases in joint ROM? A systematic review. Physiother. Res. Int., 7: 1–13. doi:10.1002/pri.236

Simic, L., Sarabon, N. and Markovic, G. (2013), Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 23: 131–148. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2012.01444

Hough, Paul A; Ross, Emma Z; Howatson, Glyn (2009), Effects of Dynamic and Static Stretching on Vertical Jump Performance and Electromyographic Activity. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: Volume 23 – Issue 2 – pp 507-512. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818cc65d

Bacurau, Reury Frank Pereira; Monteiro, Gizele Assis; Ugrinowitsch, Carlos; Tricoli, Valmor; Cabral, Leonardo Ferreira; Aoki, Marcelo Saldanha (2009), Acute Effect of a Ballistic and a Static Stretching Exercise Bout on Flexibility and Maximal Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,   Volume 23 – Issue 1 – pp 304-308. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181874d55

PEACOCK CA, KREIN DD, SILVER TA, SANDERS GJ, VON CARLOWITZ K-PA (2014). An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release in the Form of Foam Rolling Improves Performance Testing. International Journal of Exercise Science;7(3):202-211

Arabaci R. Acute Effects of Pre-Event Lower Limb Massage on Explosive and High Speed Motor Capacities and Flexibility (2008). Journal of Sports Science & Medicine;7(4):549-555.