AbstractWhile warm-up is one of the more generally accepted elements of the strength and conditioning portfolio, direct evidence as to its optimal application in enhancing sports performance is sparse. Today, there is a trend to look at warm-up as performance preparation (Jeffreys, 2007a, Verstegen, 2004), with the aim of maximising performance from the outset of, and throughout, competition and training. Given that the majority of team sports can involve high intensity exercise from the start, then a warm-up needs to be able to ensure that athletes are capable of maximal performance at the outset of a game, and do not have to use the first minutes of a game to progress to a point where they are capable of maximal performance. Performance has been shown to be optimised by theinclusion of high intensity activities in warm-up procedures (Faigenbaum, et al., 2005; Burkett, et al., 2005). However, while warm-up procedures are common, there is great variability in their application, and the inclusion of high intensity activities is not uniform (Jeffreys, 2007b). For this reason, many team sport warm-ups may not currently be optimal in terms of optimising speed and power performance. Indeed, the trend is currently for team sport warm-ups to become very skill based, and the inclusion of maximal intensity exercises may be on the decline rather than being increased.
Jeffreys, (2007b) has previously asserted that all warm-ups should consist of a potentiation phase, over and above a general phase. This potentiation phase should consist of a progressive series of exercises, until maximum effort is achieved. Additionally, Tillin and Bishop, (2009) have suggested that post activation potentiation (PAP) may provide a mechanism by which a super-maximal performance can be achieved via the use of a carefully selected and applied pre-conditioning activity.
While previous studies have indicated the potential of PAP to enhance factors affecting power performance, such as the rate offeree development, studies on the direct effects on performance are limited, and the conclusions mixed (Tillin and Bishop, 2009). This series of studies addressed this lack of research, and investigated the application of warm-up methods to the acute enhancement of performance. To maximise the benefits of these studies to coaching practice, specific measures of performance were selected as the dependent variable throughout, so that all conclusions drawn could be applied directly to performance. Similarly, competing athletes were selected as subjects for all studies, and all studies were carried out in the athlete's training environment to maximise ecological validity and to ensure transferability of the results directly into enhancing sports performance.
The results of study one clearly support the use of a potentiation phase in warm-up. Investigating the effects of three warm-up protocols (general, sprint potentiated and jump potentiated) on 10 metre sprint performance, significantly superior (p<0.05) 10 metre sprint scores were found with a potentiated warm-up (both jump and sprint) than were achieved via general warm-up alone. It also supported the specific nature of PAP with sprint potentiation able to elicit significantly (p<0.05) superior sprint performance than a jump potentiated warm-up.
Studies 2-6 looked at the potential of exploiting PAP based protocols, as an addition to a basic potentiation phase within a warm-up. A range of methods were used that worked on either a kinematic basis where biomechanically similar movement patters were loaded (loaded CMJ's, sprint resisted running and sprint assisted running) or a kinetic basis where high forces were elicited (squats, MVC's). The results of these studies showed no significant (p>0.05) benefit of any of these activities on either sprint or jump performance. These studies evaluated the acute effects of sprint resisted running, sprint assisted running, loaded jumps, maximal voluntary contractions and heavy squats superimposed onto the warm-up protocol of study 1 on speed and/or jump performance. No significant performance enhancements were found in any of the studies, indicating that none had the potential to acutely enhance performance.
In conclusion, the results of these studies recommend that all warm-ups include apotentiation phase, where a series of specific exercises are increased in intensity until maximum intensity is achieved. The use of additional activities, aimed to induce an additional PAP based effect on subsequent enhanced performance cannot be recommended for warm-ups for youth athletes.
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