The importance of a good warm-up

I like to think of human movement as a foreign language. To be fluent you need to have a broad vocabulary of words and phrases to be able to communicate in different situations and to converse with different people.

In order to maintain a high level of fluency we need to utilise and practice the language daily, building our vocabulary and our confidence and not just sticking to the words we know and those phrases we find easy to recall.

Movement is the same in that the different elements form a vocabulary which allows us to converse with our physical environment. For many of us, sitting down takes up a large part of our day and this is the equivalent of only being able to speak a limited number of words in a given situation. Imagine you can just about manage to say ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ on arrival at passport control in a foreign country but then find yourself having to go a file a report at a police station because your passport has been stolen. 

Warming up before exercise is important for many reasons but principally it allows us to ready the body for what we are about to do. It is also a great opportunity to express and develop our movement vocabulary. This is just as important for elite athletes as it is for those of us seeking physical activity for the general health benefits. If we don’t practice and maintain our movement vocabulary we can lose or forget those key aspects of literacy which can mean we lose the ability to converse correctly in certain situations. From a physical perspective this can mean we no longer have the competency to deal with specific movements or activities which, in turn, can lead to poor outcomes and even injury.

As a physiotherapist working in elite swimming, my role - alongside the coach and other support staff - is to minimise the risk of injury, help redress any technical deficiencies and enhance overall performance. We use a land warm up as an opportunity to develop movements that can help with this and in turn mobilise the body, preparing it for the session ahead.

You can see this theory put in to practice by tuning in to "Performance LIVE: The Warm-Up" at the sportscotland Facebook page on Thursday 7 September at 6pm

Date published: 28 June 2023
Date updated: 28 June 2023


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