Warming and Stretching

Avoiding Injuries
Why warm up?
When we were young, warm up didn’t even cross our minds but as we age, the importance of a good warm up becomes clearer – without it, we end up seeing a physio! Injury to ligaments, muscles and tendons are common areas of damage when playing sport or exercising and can often occur as a result of not having “warmed up”. Warming up properly gradually increases the heart rate and blood supply to the muscles which can help prevent injuring these structures. It also prepares the body for exercise enabling optimum performance.
How long should it take?
Ideally it should last for about 5-10 minutes for a general warm up. This should be sufficient to prepare the body for most types of exercise. However, this can be extended depending upon the type of exercise you do, and the level and frequency to which you play/exercise.
What should be included?
A warm up should comprise of a cardiovascular routine, which gradually increases the heart rate, and a stretching routine, which helps to make the muscles more flexible. It should be aimed at warming up the body as a whole, but you may want to pay more attention to the parts of your body that will be used most during your exercise e.g. legs if you are a runner, shoulders arms and back if you are a bowler playing cricket etc.
​Below is an outline of a general warm up. Should any of these exercises cause pain, please stop immediately.

1. Cardiovascular warm up

This should be a 5-10 minute section starting with light activity such as walking or marching on the spot, which is then increased to gradually bring the heart rate up. This can be done by building up to fast walking and then a slow jog or skip. It will depend on your current level of fitness as to how difficult to make this section. If your fitness level is quite high you may want to progress it by adding knee lifts, leg curls, heel kicks or star jumps. If you are starting to exercise for the first time then fast walking may be sufficient. You will know when you are working at the right level when you feel your heart is beating faster, you feel hotter and you are breaking into a slight sweat.

2. Stretching

There is contradicting evidence about the importance of stretching before exercise but many athletes and coaches insist upon it. As with most things, it is the quality of attention given to the activity that often makes the difference…
​Once you are feeling warmer it is time to stretch your muscles. While doing these stretches they should not be painful or done too forcefully. You should not bounce the stretch, but hold it steady for the count of 15 and repeat each exercise up to 4 times for each side. The stretches below can also be performed after a work-out or vigorous exercise.

i) Calf Stretch

Stand with one foot forwards while keeping the front knee slightly bent and the back of the knee straight. Lean your weight forwards over the bent knee, keeping your back straight and your back heel on the floor. You should feel a gentle pull in the calf of the back leg.

ii) Hamstring Stretch

Lie on your back with one leg straight and on the floor, and bend the other leg at your hip so that you are bringing your knee towards your chest. Support behind the thigh of this leg with your hands and straighten your knee to feel a stretch at the back of the thigh.

iii) Quadriceps Stretch

Stand and hold one foot behind you, pulling it towards your buttock. Keep your knees together and push your hips forwards until you feel a stretch at the front of your thigh. You can use something to hold on to with your other hand to help you balance.

iv)Hip Stretch

Sit with one leg out straight in front of you and cross the other leg over it, bringing the foot up as far as possible. Use one arm for support and turn the body towards the bent knee. Place the opposite hand on the outside of the bent knee and pull it towards you until you feel the stretch in the hip/buttock area.

v) Arm Stretch

Raise one arm, bend your elbow and reach behind your head with your hand. With your other hand gently pull your elbow towards the opposite side.
​If you have any further questions on injury prevention through warm ups and stretches please feel free to call one of our physiotherapists in Huntingdon for more help.

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