An Overemphasis on Warm-up

Every few weeks I see someone new wasting time on warm-up

Sometimes they are just guests, but other times they may be regulars at Takano Weightlifting.  They spend an inordinate amount of time on the warm-up.  They have a belief that the warm-up is going to make them a better athlete but there is very little substantiation for this belief. 

Let’s take a look at the history of the origin of this belief

For a good portion of the 20th century Physical Education was the major where university athletic departments stashed barely literate scholarship athletes to keep them eligible.  Work ethic was not a big part of this program when it was detached from athletics.  This created a culture of doing the least to get by and out of it came the stereotype of the roll-out-the-ball P.E. teacher which many of the jocks were transformed into. 

Now if you are a lazy P.E. teacher who has to kill a certain amount of time you are going to look for the easy options.  If your students need 5 minutes to change into gym clothes and 10 minutes to shower and change into street clothes, you are left with 40 minutes of instruction time out of a 55 minute period.  At least this was the traditional mid-20th century secondary school approach to P.E. A warm-up of calisthenics led by a student class leader followed by a couple of laps of jogging constituted a “warm-up” which killed another 15 minutes. 

This approach became so common that the belief in a warm-up has become strongly engrained in American physical culture.

The belief that refuses to die

No one ever questions that many people are spending too much time and effort warming up.  I’ve done quite a bit of strength  and conditioning work with volleyball players and they regularly warm-up for 45 minutes before a match.  How much warming up do high school age athletes need?  The Fitness community warms up a lot so that they have a need for the merchandise sold for warming-up.  Ropes, bands, analgesics, mats, warm-up drinks and other gadgets feed a belief that is much like religion—not fact based.

We are mammals

That means that we are homeotherms.  We maintain a constant body temperature because that is the environment that are our bodies need to carry on normal physiological activities at an optimal rate.  For we humans, it is 37 degrees Celsius.  We have a number of physiological mechanisms that cool us down if we get too hot and warm us up if we get too cold at our core.  We are always warm.

Other mammals unhesitatingly involve themselves in maximal, violent activities with no warm-up whatsoever.  There are huge numbers of online videos depicting predator-prey interactions between mammals and you won’t ever see any of them warming up.  We are no different. 

A little warm-up

If you’ve come in from the cold you might need to get some blood carrying heat to your extremities.  You might need to get the blood to heat up the areas surrounding some of your joints as the connective tissue has such poor circulation.  This should take no more than 5 minutes.  I’ve been in the training halls of 3 Olympic Games weightlifting competitions, and 3 World Weightlifting Championships and I’ve never seen any athletes at that level do anything resembling a warm-up activity for more than 5 minutes. 

The point is

You have a finite amount of energy in your body that you can devote to training.  Training is challenging enough without having to attempt it with low energy reserves.  The long warm-up uses up energy.  Use your energy to become a better athlete.