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Avoiding Sports Injuries Through Warm-Up

Daniel Brady | April 14, 2013 in Sport
Sports Injury

How does it sound to spend a month on the sidelines because you didn’t spend 10 minutes warming up? Or spending a month outside of the gym? Both of those are very real possibilities if you don’t warm up. Even if you haven’t had an injury yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t. As your muscles get stronger, the potential for injury increases too. So read on to learn how to avoid these problems.

My Injury – Learning the Hard Way

I have given myself hamstring tendonitis (pain and swelling in the tendon behind the knee) by doing squat jumps without warming up first. The most common causes of tendonitis are overuse, not warming up, and changing direction quickly (such as in basketball).[1] Now I have to follow the RICE treatment plan (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to hopefully reduce my recovery time.

The rest part of the treatment plan requires that I refrain from doing hamstring intensive exercises while the injury heals. That is disappointing as that includes squats, power cleans and deadlifts which are all great exercises. So I will be focusing mainly on upper body for a while. Obviously it would have been better to avoid the injury in the first place, so let’s look at warm-ups for avoiding injury.

Are Warm-Ups Effective for Reducing Injury Rates

The following chart shows injuries of female football (soccer) players who did a warm-up and those who didn’t. Injuries were reduced by 20-50% by the warm-up.[2] Considering that a lot of the injuries would be caused by other players, self-inflicted injuries (similar to my hamstring tendonitis) were likely reduced by 50%+. So doing a warm-up does seem worthwhile.

Football Injury Rates

Effective Warm-Ups for Avoiding Injury

  • Jogging: Jogging at 60% of maximum intensity increases core and muscle temperature.[3] This improves elasticity and stretch length to failure. So without jogging, a squat jump for example can more easily stretch the muscle to failure. Between 4 and 10 minutes of jogging is enough.[4] The squat jump will exert the same force with or without the warm0up, but the stretched muscle will be able to absorb more force.
  • Static Stretching: Static stretching provides a short term increase in range of motion (along with long term increases if done regularly). This is particularly useful for sports, but note that too much static stretching induces a short term reduction in strength and power. [5] 30 seconds per muscle is recommended.
  • Practice Exercises: Practicing the exercise you are about to perform with lower intensity is a good alternative to static stretching, as it doesn’t induce a strength or power decrease.[6] For squat jumps that means doing body weight squats, then low height squat jumps, then full squat jumps with a short rest between each set. For weight lifting it means starting with an empty bar and workout your way up, without doing so many reps that you impair your maximum lifts.

So to apply these stretches to various situations I would do the following:

  • Weight Lifting: Low intensity practice exercises as the bare minimum, a positive addition being a 3-7 times weekly full-body stretching routine (30 seconds per muscle) so you have a good range of motion. A pre-workout jog is optional.
  • Sport: Jogging for 4-10 minutes (including some high knees, high heels, and jumping), a 3-7 times weekly full-body stretching routine with optional stretching before the sport, practice exercises at a low intensity. That is as simple as practicing what you will do on field at 60% of maximum intensity.


Spend 5-10 minutes before exercising doing a warm-up and you’ll potentially avoid several weeks or months of down-time. Examples include riding your bicycle to the gym, jogging before sport, and slowly working up to your maximum weight-lifts.

  1. []
  2. Comprehensive warm-up programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: cluster randomised controlled trial. Torbjørn Soligard, Grethe Myklebust, Kathrin Steffen, Ingar Holme, Holly Silvers, Mario Bizzini, Astrid Junge, Jiri Dvorak, Roald Bahr, and Thor Einar Andersen []
  3. The role of warmup in muscular injury prevention. Marc R. Safran, MD; William E. Garrett, JR, MD, PhD; Anthony V. Seaber; Richard R. Glisson; Beth M. Ribbeck, MS []
  4. Should static stretching be used during a warm-up for strength and power activities? Young, Warren; Behm, David []
  5. Should static stretching be used during a warm-up for strength and power activities? Young, Warren; Behm, David []
  6. Should static stretching be used during a warm-up for strength and power activities? Young, Warren; Behm, David []

Daniel has a strong interest in evidence supported fitness training, preparation and supplementation. His goal is to provide clear information that simply works. He's currently 16 kg of muscle above his starting weight (7kg in the past 12 months), and targeting a continued growth rate of 5kg+ per year.
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