Warming Up Before Exercise May Hone The Mind, But Not The Body

Warming Up Before Exercise May Hone The Mind, But Not The Body

Most people believe that stretching and warming up prior to a long workout or any kind of physical activity is required in order to avoid injury. While it definitely puts our minds in the right place for the event, it may not actually have significant physical benefits.Photo by Tony Alter.

Over at the New York Times, they point out that if you ask top-performing athletes from different sports whether they stretch and warm up prior to their events or regular workout routines, you’ll get a number of different answers. One world record holder explained that she spends more time warming up for her marathon events than others do running. Another Olympic swimmer points out that she barely warms up at all for her races. Doctors note there is a theory for why long warm-up routines should be beneficial — namely that muscles expand and contract more efficiently after they have been for a while — there’s little research to support the theory.

Since there’s a lack of research consensus on whether you absolutely should warm up and stretch prior to exercise, ultimately the real benefit may be mental and not physical. One doctor, Andrew Fradkin of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, noted that in her studies of golf players, a warm-up routine of practice swings and light exercise put the golfer’s mind in the right place and led to better performance.

Still, she noted that the results aren’t necessarily applicable to all sports. In the end, if you feel that a warm-up routine is really helping you, there’s no reason to stop, but if you feel like you’re wasting your time, skip the warm-up.

The Right Way to Warm Up Is (Your Answer Here) [New York Times]


  • Bollocks!!!

    Try walking into a gym and hitting the heavy weights straight off. See how long you go without injuring yourself!

    This is one of those theories I’m going to completely dismiss and go by my own experience.

    Sometimes I don’t feel I need more than a few stretches, but other times my body is cold and my muscles and joints feel tighter, so I’ll continue moving around and stretching gently before launching into anything too strenuous.

    ‘Going by what you feel you need’ may not be a science, but for me it works.

    If you’re starting out or getting back into exercise and not really sure what you’re doing, pay the extra cash for a one-off PT session to help make sure you’re doing it properly. You can’t work out when you’re injured anyway.

    (apologies for the rant, but if one person reads this and avoids injury because of it, it’ll be worth it)

    • “‘Going by what you feel you need’ may not be a science, but for me it works.”
      Says it all, really – the point of this article is to explain that there is no scientific evidence. That is to say, your feeling that you’re more likely to be injured without a proper warm up could well be in your mind only.

  • You should be warming up, but you have to do it correctly. A whole body movement or sport specific drill at a low intensity can be beneficial and help promote blood flow to the areas requires and help prep the body for an exercise state.

    The general consensus in modern strength and conditioning is that before exercise you should be doing dynamic (moving) stretches such as leg raises or hip rotations.

    Generally most static (holding) stretches are left until after the work out. Although as S.Armstrong said you should “go by what you feel”.

    So do a full body warm up- using dynamic stretches, google them if you need some. If you feel you need to staticly stretch a specific muscle then do- it has been shown to decrease your max strength by the smallest amount, but for most that’s better then getting an injury. After you work out cool down and statically stretch.

  • +1 for s.armstrong =) Also keep in mind that the researchers are asking top athletes, whose body conditioning we can only dream to ever achieve. For the normal person out there, who mostly likely has an irregular workout routine, stretching is worthwhile.

  • Theres 2 seperate Questions here……Injury and performance. This article is trying to say that warming up doesnt stop u from getting injured any less…and theres no evidence of this scientifically. So i guess thats probably true. But performance is definitely affected by not warming up

  • When ever I am competing I never really warm up. When it is my turn to go I just turn my music on loud and psyche myself for adrenaline rush and yeah I’m off. Also if I KNOW I can do something I don’t need to warm up for it. I already know I can do it who needs to warm up. Maybe some people a psychologically weaker than others and that is why they need to warm up to achieve their status quo whereas others know what they can do and know they can push themselves.

  • I’ve been training for a half marathon and never usually warm up, apart from walking down the stairs. I’ll make sure I’m taking it a bit easy the first km, but generally I just run at the speed that feels good for me.

    • I’m with you, I work out about 10hours a week and never stretch before any session. I just always take the first few km slow before I hit speed work, same in the pool, on the bike or in the ocean ski.

  • It’s very important to warm up before using your muscles in stretching. I read that years ago and noticed I was more flexible and less prone to pulling a muscle to the point of pain. Warming up IS a good idea but I guess it’s not for everyone. Don’t fuss if it hurts.

  • @47 years of age, I have the Mind of a 25 Year Old and the Body of an 80 Year old, I wish I had of warmed up, prior to doing sport and exercise when I was younger….

  • Whilst stretching may not be beneficial, it certainly seems to have worked for the guy in the photo. He’s managed to rotate his head through 180 degrees!

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