Although most of the warm-ups and criterion tasks evaluated showed an improvement in performance (79%), 17% showed a decrement. When examining these in more detail, it was shown that many of these warm-ups were not suited to the performance to be performed. For example, 10-12 jumping jacks were performed before throwing, cycling, and basketball free throw performances. When compared with the best-practice theory of warm-up protocols, these warm-ups did not include aspects specific to the tasks to be performed, and completion of the warm-up was not of a long enough duration for an increase in muscle temperature to occur; thus, it would not be expected that in these circumstances that performances would improve (36). Other examples where performance was decreased after completion of a warm-up included when vigorous activity was completed before vertical jump performance (7,10), weighted warm-ups before running (12), and specific warm-ups followed by longer rest periods before the performance (1). It is important to note that not all of the warm-ups that showed a detriment in performance were inappropriate to the activity, with 36% of the warm-ups that showed a detriment in performance being a suitable warm-up to undertake before the activity (8,9,11,23,36).
A number of methodological issues in the studies reviewed may also have impacted upon the results seen. Some of the studies did not have a control group or genuine control condition in the study design. Instead, many of the studies used an actual warm-up procedure as their baseline value and then compared variations in the warm-up with baseline (5,7,11,12,19,29,39,42). Although this still allowed for performance improvements and decrements to be determined, it did not reflect a true increase in performance from baseline because baseline ideally should have consisted of no prior activity. Furthermore, for each instance where warm-up was not demonstrated to improve performance, there are other studies demonstrating that warm-up does improve performance for that particular sport or physical activity. Therefore, it seems that the actual warm-up procedure employed is the major factor influencing the potential performance improvement, and there may be multiple warm-ups that improve the same performance.
Additionally, many of the studies in this review had very small sample sizes, which meant that many of the confidence intervals crossed the “zero point” (i.e., performance may have been improved or impaired). Although the conclusions from this study are based upon the mean results, it is important to note that only 8 of the studies showed an absolute improvement in performance when examining both the means and confidence intervals, with no studies showing an absolute decrement in performance. This provides further support for warming-up being advantageous for performance.
There are several weaknesses in this review, not least the relatively small number of subjects in some of the studies increasing the possible effects of chance. Also, searching for relevant studies is difficult, despite considerable efforts using electronic databases. Hand searching journals and checking of reference lists of retrieved articles increased retrieval of relevant articles. We looked for studies in electronic databases, and checked the reference lists of all included studies and many excluded studies and reviews. One hundred seventy-two articles had to be read, and their reference lists examined to ensure as complete a review as possible, with another 2,183 abstracts read. This study also only investigated the use of a warm-up on actual sporting and physical activity improvements. All studies that examined task specific movements or had physiology based outcomes were excluded. Therefore, it is possible that warming-up may be more or less beneficial for certain outcome measures.
The results of this systematic review and meta-analysis provide the best, if limited, available estimate for warm-up as a measure of performance improvement in physical activities and sporting performances. This review used a systematic review method to eliminate potential sources of bias as much as possible, but this does not guarantee the absence of bias. The PEDro scale, which was used to discriminate between studies of different quality, has not been fully validated; however, it is still one of the preferred methods for this type of study (41). The PEDro scale is, however, unlikely to have biased our conclusions because points are only awarded when a criterion is clearly satisfied and reported. If on a literal reading of a research article, it is possible that a criterion was not satisfied or reported a point is not awarded for that criterion. Because each sport has its own unique qualities, it is possible that warming-up may be a useful performance improvement tool for some sporting activities and not others. This, however, needs further research to confirm or deny.
This systematic review and meta-analysis have shown improved performance after a warm-up 79% of the time. This review included 32 articles of high quality with 92 different combinations of warm-up and criterion tasks to demonstrate this overall performance improvement. This review has also shown that there is little evidence to suggest that warming-up is detrimental to sports participants because many methodological issues exist within the studies that demonstrated such a change. Physical activity participants should therefore be encouraged to perform a period of aerobic exercise, followed by stretching, and ending with a period of activity similar to the event they are to perform before beginning any activity. These activities should focus on the body segments that will be used in the subsequent performance and should not be too intense in nature so as to fatigue the participant. Well-conducted, randomized, controlled trials are needed to further evaluate the role of warming-up before physical activity in relation to performance improvement. Based on the strong evidence that warm-up improves performance, future studies should specifically focus on how each component of warm-up can be optimized to maximize performance in specific sports and activities.
1. Andzel, WD. The effects of moderate prior exercise and various rest intervals upon cardiorespiratory endurance performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness
18: 245-252, 1978.
2. Andzel, WD and Gutin, B. Prior exercise and endurance performance: A test of the mobilization hypothesis. Res Q
47: 269-276, 1976.
3. Bishop, D. Warm-up
II. Performance changes following active warm-up
and how to structure the warm-up
. Sports Med
33: 483-498, 2003.
4. Bobo, M. The effect of selected types of warm-up
on swimming performance. Int Sports J
2: 37-43, 1999.
5. Bonner, HW. Preliminary exercise: A two factor theory. Res Q
45: 138-147, 1974.
6. Bourne, G. The physiological basis of the warm-up
. Mod Athlete Coach
30: 36-38, 1992.
7. Bradley, PS, Olsen, PD, and Portas, MD. The effect of static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on vertical jump performance. J Strength Cond Res
21: 223-226, 2007.
8. Burkett, LN, Phillips, WT, and Ziuraitis, J. The best warm-up
for the vertical jump in college-age athletic men. J Strength Cond Res
19: 673-676, 2005.
9. Burnley, M, Doust, JH, and Jones, AM. Effects of prior warm-up
regime on severe-intensity cycling performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc
37: 838-845, 2005.
10. Church, JB, Wiggins, MS, Moode, M, and Crist, R. Effect of warm-up
and flexibility treatments on vertical jump performance. J Strength Cond Res
15: 332-336, 2001.
11. Faigenbaum, AD, Bellucci, M, Bernieri, A, Bakker, B, and Hoorens, K. Acute effects of different warm-up
protocols on fitness performance in children. J Strength Cond Res
19: 376-381, 2005.
12. Faigenbaum, AD, McFarland, JE, Schwerdtman, JA, Ratamess, NA, Kang, J, and Hoffman, JR. Dynamic warm-up
protocols, with and without a weighted vest, and fitness performance in high school female athletes. J Athletic Train
41: 357-363, 2006.
13. Fradkin, AJ, Cameron, PA, and Gabbe, BJ. Is there an association between self-reported warm-up
behaviour and golf related injury in female golfers. J Sci Med Sport
10: 66-71, 2007.
14. Fradkin, AJ, Finch, CF, and Sherman, CA. Warm-up
practices of golfers: Are they adequate. Br J Sports Med
35: 125-127, 2001.
15. Fradkin, AJ, Finch, CF, and Sherman, CA. Warm-up
attitudes and behaviours of amateur golfers. J Sci Med Sport
6: 210-215, 2003.
16. Fradkin, AJ, Sherman, CA, and Finch, C. Improving golf performance with a warm up conditioning programme. Br J Sports Med
38: 762-765, 2004.
17. Hajoglou, A, Foster, C, De Koning, JJ, Lucia, A, Kernozek, TW, and Porcari, JP. Effect of warm-up
on cycle time trial performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc
37: 1608-1614, 2005.
18. Hedrick, A. Physiological responses to warm-up
. J Strength Cond Res
14: 25-27, 1992.
19. Koch, AJ, O'Bryant, HS, Stone, ME, Sanborn, K, Proulx, C, Hruby, J, Shannonhouse, E, Boros, R, and Stone, MH. Effect of warm-up
on the standing broad jump in trained and untrained men and women. J Strength Cond Res
17: 710-714, 2003.
20. Mangus, BC, Takahashi, M, Mercer, JA, Holcomb, WR, McWhorter, JW, and Sanchez, R. Investigation of vertical jump performance after completing heavy squat exercises. J Strength Cond Res
20: 597-600, 2006.
21. Mathews, DK and Snyder, HA. Effect of warm-up
on the 440-yard dash. Res Q
30: 446-451, 1959.
22. McBride, JM, Nimphius, S, and Erickson, TM. The acute effects of heavy-load squats and loaded countermovement jumps on sprint performance. J Strength Cond Res
19: 893-897, 2005.
23. McMillian, DJ, Moore, JH, Halter, BS, and Taylor, DC. Dynamic vs. static-stretching warm-up
: The effect on power and agility performance. J Strength Cond Res
20: 492-499, 2006.
24. Michael, E, Skubic, V, and Rochelle, R. Effect of warm-up
on softball throw for distance. Res Q
28: 357-363, 1957.
25. O'Brien, B, Payne, W, Gastin, P, and Burge, C. A comparison of active and passive warm ups on energy system contribution and performance in moderate heat. Aust J Sci Med Sport
29: 106-109, 1997.
26. Pacheco, BA. Improvement in jumping performance due to preliminary exercise. Res Q
28: 55-63, 1957.
27. Pacheco, BA. Effectiveness of warm-up
exercise in junior high school girls. Res Q
30: 202-213, 1959.
28. Power, K, Behm, D, Cahill, F, Carroll, M, and Young, W. An acute bout of static stretching: Effects on force and jumping performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc
36: 1389-1396, 2004.
29. Richards, DK. A two-factor theory of the warm-up
effect in jumping performance. Res Q
39: 668-673, 1968.
30. Richendollar, ML, Darby, LA, and Brown, TM. Ice bag application, active warm-up
, and 3 measures of maximal functional performance. J Athletic Train
41: 364-370, 2006.
31. Rochelle, RH, Skubic, V, and Michael, ED. Performance as affected by incentive and preliminary warm-up
. Res Q
31: 499-504, 1960.
32. Romney, NC and Nethery, VM. The effects of swimming and dryland warm-ups on 100-yard freestyle performance in collegiate swimmers. J Swim Res
9: 5-9, 1993.
33. Safran, MR, Seaber, AV, and Garrett, WE. Warm-up
and muscular injury prevention-an update. Sports Med
8: 239-249, 1989.
34. Scott, SL and Docherty, D. Acute effects of heavy preloading on vertical and horizontal jump performance. J Strength Cond Res
18: 201-205, 2004.
35. Simonson, E, Teslenko, N, and Gorkin, M. Influence of warm-up
on 100m run time. J Physiol
9: 152, 1936.
36. Skubic, V and Hodgkins, J. Effect of warm-up
activities on speed, strength, and accuracy. Res Q
28: 147-152, 1957.
37. Smith, CA. The warm-up
procedure: To stretch or not to stretch. A brief review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther
19: 12-17, 2004.
38. Stewart, IB and Sleivert, GG. The effect of warm-up
intensity on range of motion and anaerobic performance. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther
27: 154-161, 1998.
39. Thompsen, AG, Kackley, T, Palumbo, MA, and Faigenbaum, AD. Acute effects of different warm-up
protocols with and without a weighted vest on jumping performance in athletic women. J Strength Cond Res
21: 52-56, 2007.
40. Thompson, H. Effect of warm-up
upon physical performance in selected activities. Res Q
29: 231-246, 1958.
41. Verhagen, AP, de Vet, H, de Bie, R, Kessels, A, Boers, M, Bouter, L, and Knipschild, P. The Delphi list: A criteria list for quality assessment of randomised clinical trials for conducting systematic reviews developed by Delphi consensus. J Clin Epidemiol
51: 1235-1241, 1998.
42. Witte, F. Effect of participation in light, medium, and heavy exercise upon accuracy in motor performance of junior high school girls. Res Q
33: 308-312, 1962.
43. Young, W, Clothier, P, Otago, L, Bruce, L, and Liddell, D. Acute effects of static stretching on hip flexor and quadriceps flexibility, range of motion and foot speed in kicking a football. J Sci Med Sport
7: 23-31, 2004.