Is a warm-up before participation in sports important?

It is if you want to perform your best and stay healthy and injury free.

It is also important that you do the correct type of warm-up to be effective — things have changed since the time of long-hold stretches prior to participation.

Research has shown that a dynamic warm-up that includes activities to increase your heart rate, functional movement and sport-specific movement not only reduces injury but improves performance.  

In a study at the University of North Carolina, a dynamic 15-minute warm-up prior to activity was shown to increase flexibility, strength and vertical jump.  

Often when a team comes out “flat” in the first half or period of a game, it can be linked to their poor warm-up prior to the start of the game.

In fact, a proper warm-up has been shown to help psychological performance as well.

And in regards to those long-hold stretches, a recent study at Edinburgh University reviewed current research on the effects of stretching on performance.  

The study suggested that prolonged-hold stretches prior to activity reduce performance in sport-specific skills.

From an injury prevention perspective, there is a substantial amount of research that shows a proper warm-up reduces injury risk.  

FIFA created a warm-up program, called 11+  to prepare soccer players for sport with a goal of reducing injuries. They have shown through research that if this dynamic warm-up is performed prior to practice and games it will reduce the number of player injuries by 30 per cent to 50 per cent. It has also been shown to significantly reduce the risk of serious injuries such as ACL tears.

The injury prevention values of a pre-participation warm-up have been repeatedly proven in all sports, along with improving the athlete’s performance.

The components of a good warm-up include aerobic activity, dynamic stretching, multi-joint movement and sport-specific activity.  

Considering the time of year, I will use hockey as an example.  

Warm-ups are done off the ice prior to putting on equipment.  

This starts with a gentle jog or activities such as skipping or jumping jacks. This is done for about five minutes to get the heart rate up and core body temperature increased.  

Then a series of short stretches are done — held for two to three seconds and repeated multiple times — to stretch the muscles used in the sport.

This is followed by more advanced multi-joint movements, such as walking lunges with upper-body rotation.  

The warm-up progresses to things such as fast feet drills to increase the “awakeness” of the neurological system.

My colleagues at Prosmart have an excellent video example of a warm-up at  v=XOV-Iv_t-zk.    

These warm-up exercises need to be done before practices and games, and can improve bonding if done as a team.

The involvement of parents and coaches is critical to help kids understand the importance of warm-ups, and how to do them.

By doing the correct warm-up, you are giving your body a chance to perform its best and prevent a “time-off” injury.  

Randy Goodman is a Clinical Specialist in Sports Physiotherapy, having worked with professional athletes in the NHL, NBA, NFL, NCAA and CIS, as well as consulting with many of Canada’s national teams. You can contact him at