Practical training tips from research in February

February was another great month for us to take stock of the research that has been coming out. We found some amazing studies that have really useful, practical implications. The research review itself covers nearly 50 of the best studies. In this article, Chris Beardsley (@SandCResearch) reviews two very practical ones relating to warm-ups that we couldn’t resist sharing in advance.

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How do the different elements of a warm-up affect jump performance?

The study: Effect of Various Warm-Up Protocols on Jump Performance in College Football Players, by Pagaduan, Pojskić, Užičanin and Babajic, in Journal of Human Kinetics, 2012

What is the background?

Warm-ups for team sports participation usually consist of aerobic activity followed by various stretching exercises. However, the use of static stretching immediately prior to sports performance has been questioned on the basis that stretches, particularly those of longer duration, appear to lead to reduced power output. Such stretches are thought to help reduce the incidence of injury, although research does not support this view.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers wanted to investigate the effects of different warm-up protocols on countermovement jump performance among athletes. Therefore, they recruited 29 college football players and monitored countermovement jump performance following various different warm-up protocols, as follows:

  1. No warm-up
  2. General warm-up
  3. General warm-up + dynamic stretching
  4. General warm-up + dynamic stretching + static stretching
  5. Static stretching, static stretching + general warm-up
  6. Static stretching + general warm-up + dynamic warm-up.

The general warm-up comprised 5 minutes of running. The dynamic warm-up and static stretching warm-up each comprised 7 exercises over 7 minutes for 2 sets of 20s with 10s rest between sets. The dynamic warm-ups were: Straight Leg March, Butt Kicks, Carioca, High Knees, Reverse Lunge with Twist, Power Shuffle (Step Slide), and Jogging with Squats, The static stretches were: Standing Quadriceps Stretch, Standing Calf Stretch, Standing Hamstring Stretch, Single Leg Straddle, Inverted Hurdler’s Stretch, Lying Single Knee to Chest and Seated Cross-Legged Gluteus Stretch.

What happened?

The researchers found that the average countermovement jump heights following each kind of warm-up protocol were as shown in the chart below:

Warm-ups

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers concluded that the general warm-up condition and the general warm-up followed by dynamic stretching condition were the best warm-ups for optimizing countermovement jump performance.

What are the key points?

The following key points can be taken away from this study:

  • A general, aerobic warm-up or a general aerobic warm-up followed by dynamic stretching are the best types of warm-ups for optimizing countermovement jump performance
  • Static stretching leads to reductions in performance, irrespective of where it is placed in the warm-up.
  • The position of static stretching in the warm-up has a significant effect on countermovement jump performance. Positioning the static stretching at the end of a warm-up causes a large reduction in jump performance, while the addition of static stretching to the beginning of a warm-up causes a small reduction.
  • Where warm-ups must involve static stretching in order to achieve full joint range of motion, static stretching is best performed at the outset of the warm-up.

Overall, warm-ups are probably a much neglected area of performance enhancement and future research is likely to provide some very useful information about how to implement optimal warm-ups for coaches of all kinds of sports.

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Does reducing muscle temperature drop after a warm-up improves sprint cycling performance?

The study: Reducing muscle temperature drop after warm-up improves sprint cycling performance, by Faulkner, Ferguson, Gerrett, Hupperets, Hodder and Havenith, in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2012

What’s the background?

The principle that muscle temperature effects muscle function is central to the concept of warming up prior to exercise. Researchers have found that increasing the temperature of muscles prior to exercise is particularly beneficial for activities involving high levels of power production. Of course, muscle temperature can be achieved using both physical movement and by applying an external heat source.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers wanted to trial different ways of maintaining muscle temperature between a warm-up and a 30-second sprint cycling test. They wanted to see which was best for optimizing power output during that test. So they recruited 11 male competitive cyclists and triathletes, who performed three 30-second maximal sprint tests after a standardized warm-up but with different insulating conditions between the warm-ups and the tests (standard tracksuit pants, insulated athletic pants or insulated athletic pants plus an external heating element).

What happened?

The researchers reported that the condition using external heating maintained muscle temperature higher than the other two conditions. They also reported that peak power output was higher in this condition, as shown in the chart below:

Warm-ups

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers concluded that the use of an insulated garment plus an external heat source is able to reduce the decline in muscle temperature between a warm-up and a sprint test, as well as improve peak power output by around 9% during a 30-second maximal sprint cycling test.

What are the key points?

This study was able to provide recommendations in relation to warm-ups prior to training and performance, as follows:

  • Use of an insulated garment combined with an external heat source is able to reduce the decline in muscle temperature between a warm-up and a sprint test.
  • However, an insulated garment without the external heat source is not effective.
  • Retaining muscle temperature using an insulated garment as well as an external heat source is associated with improved peak power output of around 9% during a 30-second maximal sprint cycling test.

Overall, it seems that the increases in muscle temperature caused during warm-ups are very important and maintaining those increases in temperature between the warm-up and the performance or training event may be key to enhanced performance.

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