_
_
_
_
_

How to properly warm up before exercising

It is important to prepare the body for the demands it will face in a training session

Ejercicios de calentamiento
Three referees do warm-up exercises before a match at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.Masashi Hara - FIFA (FIFA via Getty Images)
Gema Torres

The idea that you have to warm up before exercising is widely accepted. In fact, it is not uncommon to see people perform a series of diverse movements before running, playing a game of tennis or working out in the gym. Remember the legendary soccer player Maradona, who during the warm-up before a UEFA Cup semi-final with Napoli, practiced movements, actions and skills that helped him prepare for the start of the match.

The meaning of warming up comes from the Latin word calere (to warm up), which was first used to describe the action of increasing the body temperature of an organism. I used to have a standard protocol for warming up with very generic guidance: it didn’t have to be related to the training session I was about to do. However, today, the concept of warming up is much broader in order to meet goals more closely related to activating or enhancing the body, and better preparing it for the demands it will face during a training session or competition. Working from this premise, the warm-up must be well-thought-out in terms of volume, intensity, type and task orientation and exercises. What’s more, if the warm-up takes up a lot of time, as usually happens when the athlete’s level increases (it can go for 45 minutes), that training must be quantified, since it may be part of long-term adaptations.

Warming up has been widely studied in the scientific literature, with systematic reviews providing greater insight into this area. One of the first questions you must ask yourself is what type of warm-up you should do. There is the playful warm-up, with unstructured exercises, which may or may not be related to the activity that will be carried out later. For example, playing soccer tennis on a tennis court, where you will later practice tennis. While this warm up may be similar to tennis and is played on the same court, the goal is for it to be fun: it is uncontrolled training. Then there is the generic warm-up, which involves general exercises that are not specific to the movement, skills or abilities that will later be practiced in the training session. For example, low intensity running before basketball training.

There are also specific warm-ups for the training session or sport in question. This includes exercises that are planned and structured by a professional in the field, which are designed to work on movements or skills that will later be used in the training session. For example, a functional strength warm-up for a subsequent strength workout or soccer-specific warm-up before a game of soccer. It is important to highlight that in these examples, the concept of specificity not only concerns the sport in question, i.e., tennis or strength, but also about what specific skills will be trained in the session. In other words, the warm-up before tennis will vary depending on whether a player is working on their ability to quickly change direction (acceleration and decelartion), their groundstroke or their serve.

From here, different combinations can be made. For example, a functional warm-up for strength may be less specific if a person is preparing to practice paddle tennis, but in turn, it will be more specific if the session is aimed at developing strength on the court. For this reason, it is important for the warm-up to be designed by a professional in the field.

In addition to the exercises in the warm-up, it’s also important to consider its duration and intensity. This is another reason why a warm-up must be designed by a professional who knows the individual characteristics of the person and where they are in their training. A warm-up that is too intense or lasts too long can cause fatigue that manifests itself at the beginning of the session or even at the end, with the person unable to move forward and adapt. Warming up is a balancing act. If it falls short with respect to content, duration or intensity, it will not achieve the training objectives; and if it is too intense (due to the same factors) the same thing will happen. It is important not to overreach or fall short. Don’t forget that the training session begins when you tie your shoelaces.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_