Bethesda, Md. (June 16, 2011) Coaches, physiologists and athletes alike will attest to the importance of warming up before athletic competition. Warming up increases muscle temperature, accelerates oxygen uptake kinetics and increases anaerobic metabolism, all of which enhance performance. However, the question of how long and strenuous a warm-up should be is more contentious, with some in the sports community advocating longer warm-ups and others espousing shorter ones. Now researchers at the University of Calgary Human Performance Laboratory in Calgary, Alberta, Canada have found evidence indicating that less is more.
In a study comparing the effects of a traditional, intense warm-up with those of a shorter, less strenuous warm-up on the performance of 10 highly trained track cyclists, the researchers found that the shorter warm-up produced less muscle fatigue yet more peak power output. The findings are captured in the study entitled, "Less is More: Standard Warm-up Causes Fatigue and Less Warm-up Permits Greater Cycling Output," published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The study was conducted by Elias K. Tomaras and Brian R. MacIntosh.
The Long and Short of It
The intensity of traditional, longer warm-ups has been thought to offer competitive athletes an edge by promoting a process called post-activation potentiation (PAP). In PAP, brief bouts of strenuous physical activity produce a biochemical change in muscle cells that can enhance muscle contractile response. The phenomenon usually lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. However, as the researchers note, fatigue can decrease muscle contractile response. Therefore, the team focused analysis on muscle contractile response as well as on another key component of a cyclist's success, peak power output.
In the study, cyclists participated in two warm-ups. A longer, traditional warm-up began with 20 minutes of cycling that gradually increased in intensity until
|Contact: Donna Krupa|
American Physiological Society