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How Does Warm-Up Affect Performance?

May 19, 2010

We are often told to do some warm-ups before the exercise or the competition. How intense and how long a proper warm-up needs seem to be case by case, as mentioned in this article “The Right Way to Warm Up Is (Your Answer Here)” by Gina Kolata from New York Times.

The short answer is: In theory, warm-up improves performance, but there’s not enough scientific evidences to prove that it actually helps.

The theoretical part is that the muscles contract better after they have been contracting. The explanation:

the contractions release calcium ions in the cells, enabling the muscle fibers to contract more forcefully. At the same time, muscle enzymes, which work best when slightly higher than body temperature, heat up and become more efficient.

The effects of warm-up on performance are not really clear. Most of researches were studied in 1960s and ’70s, which were poorly controlled and often omitted statistical analysis, according to Andrea J. Fradkin, an exercise researcher at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. What most athletes do is “base more on trial and error than on science.” What and how to do is “almost a ‘he said, she said’ thing.

I don’t do serious warm-up. Nor have I tried different kinds of warm-up. Just get on a bike and ride slowly for a while. But maybe that’s why I’m an amateur.

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