Challenging paradigms : why warm up prior to exercise?

27 Mar 2015

There appears to be a common consensus within the exercise and sporting fraternity that prior to physical activity an individual should ?warm up? in order to lessen the risk of injury and optimise his or her performance. In this context, there is an alternative viewpoint that indicates that a ?warm up? may, in certain conditions, be counter productive, and that cooling down an individual prior to exercise may elicit better performance outcomes. A study into the warm-up phenomenon was undertaken to examine the effect of lower body pre-cooling on the duration of high intensity running performance when compared to a ?normal? or non pre-cooled protocol, and to evaluate individual responses in terms of Running Distance Achieved, Core temperature, Heart rate response and Ratings of Perceived Exertion. Three test protocols were performed by the participants based on the 20 m Multi-Stage-Fitness Test (20MSFT) (Leger et al., 1988). Test one involved the standard 20MSFT protocol to predict aerobic performance, while Test 2 and 3 required a participant to start from the end shuttle obtained in the first aerobic test. Randomised selection of Test 2 or 3 involved either pre-cooling, or a ?normal? warm up scenario. Eight participants with a mean age of 18.6 years volunteered for the research with written informed consent. The study showed a significant increase in the number of shuttles completed in the pre-cooled state as opposed to normal state. The results of this study challenge the widely accepted ?warm up? paradigm, and demonstrate that pre-cooling intervention (opposed to a warm up) increased the duration of high intensity running performance by 11.56%.