Research shows warming up before exercise can reduce the risk of injury, help us mentally prepare for exercise, and even increase our performance. The question then becomes, which warm-up method helps elicit the most positive effects?
Warming up in some capacity prior to exercise seems like a no brainer. Warming up literally ‘warms up’ the body. As your muscle temperature increases, oxygen becomes more available to your muscles, allowing them to contract and relax more easily.
Warming up can also reduce your risk of injury and help you mentally prepare for an arduous workout.
So warming up is certainly a good practice to follow before most forms of exercise. But what forms of warming up are actually worth doing?
In this presently reviewed study, researchers compared the acute effects of three warm-up conditions:
1) Foam rolling only
2) Dynamic stretching followed by foam rolling, and
3) Foam rolling followed by dynamic stretching
Outcomes assessed were sit-and-reach test performance (hamstring range of motion), hamstring strength, and countermovement jump performance.
- Findings showed that sit-and-reach performance improved from pre- to post-warm-up in all conditions, but with no difference between conditions..
- Strength and jump performance did not significantly change in any condition.
- Men increased their hamstring range of motion 7% more than women in the foam rolling first condition.
Interpretation & Takeaways
This study showed that a warm-up consisting of foam rolling alone or foam rolling combined with dynamic stretching increased acute range of motion, but not strength or jump performance. This is not all that surprising.
Foam rolling aside, and even though improvements were not recognized in this study, dynamic stretching may improve acute strength performance. Mechanistically, dynamic stretching increases acute muscle blood flow and muscle fiber conduction velocity. Keep in mind that dynamic stretching may not improve performance if the protocol is too demanding to fatigue the athlete.
Because previous literature indicates that dynamic stretching alone may improve performance, it remains good practice to include dynamic stretching in a warm-up. Foam rolling can be included for improvements in range of motion based on personal preference and individual needs.