Why Your Warm-Up May Be Slowing You Down

Too long or too intense? Your warm-up may decrease your power output come race time.

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Courtesy of Jeremy Jenum on Flickr.

“The more scientists study warm-ups, the less they seem to understand about the practice,” said the New York Times in a health article posted today.

The article cited a new study published in May in The Journal of Applied Physiology that found some athletes warm up so much that they are too tired to perform at their best come time for their competition.

Researchers at Canada’s University of Calgary studied highly trained male track cyclists, asking them to compete after their usual warm-up (20 minutes of riding, increasing to 95% max heart rate, then 4×8 minute all out sprints) and after a 15-minute, lower-intensity warm-up. The researchers found that the cyclists’ muscles had more power before the cyclists’ usual warm-up than after it, leading researchers to believe that as far as warming up goes, less is more.

The researchers, however, were unable to answer whether or not warming up at all is beneficial to athletic performance.

“A warm-up is thought to allow tissues literally to become heated, to reach a temperature at which they are, presumably, more flexible and malleable and ready for the demands of further exercise,” Dr. MacIntosh, a researcher who studied sprint skaters’ warmups before the 2010 Winter Olympics, told the New York Times. “But it hasn’t been proved that warm muscles perform better than colder ones or that they are less prone to injury.”

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