Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Warming up for training – is it necessary?

I love asking questions, studying, researching, and finding out what is perpetuated myth and what is actual reality. Today I’m going to be looking at a very much misunderstood subject – warming up before training. 

Everyone knows you have to warm-up before training, right? If you thought so you'd most probably be wrong as the the evidence just doesn't support it.

For the last 10-15years I’ve never warmed up before training. Even just walking in, gloving up and going straight into hard sparring. I’ve never had any problems in any way shape or form from it. I’ve often wondered how this can be? After all, we all know you have to warm up? Don’t we?

I started to trawl through and Google Scholar, together with my detailed texts to find out what actually happens when we warm-up and if indeed it actually was necessary. What I found shocked me. 

To quote Frank W Dick OBE, a top sports coach and former President of the European Athletics Coaches Association “Unfortunately there is an astonishing lack of consistency in research value of warm-up.” This echoed what I had found. The same is true when it comes to warm-up and the effects on performance, and also warm-up and the effects on injury prevention. The jury is actually out on the effectiveness of warm-ups from a physical perspective full stop. 

There are possible advantages on the physiological value of warm-up. Again, Frank W Dick OBE writes that these might include:

  • ·         Increased local muscle blood flow
  • ·         Increased metabolic rate (7% for every 0.5degree increase)
  • ·         Increased speed of oxygen and fuel transfer to tissues
  • ·         Increased speed of nerve impulse conduction
  • ·         Increased speed of contraction and relaxation of muscle
  • ·         Decrease viscous resistance in the muscle

Please note the words ‘possible’ and also ‘might’. In other words, there is a lack of evidence to say this takes place. Interesting, too, that all of the above can be obtained through the application of the mind, through focus on what you want, through mental rehearsal. The same physiological reactions can happen just with the application of the mind. They also don’t actually take long at all – with the right mental approach the changes can appear almost ‘instantaneously’.

These physiological reactions happen so fast that with the right mental approach, setting a trigger point for the reactions, there just isn't any need for a more classical 'warm-up'. This leads more time for deliberate practice - and therefore you can get better quicker! It is just a more efficient use of time.

Frank W Dick OBE covers this. He states “perhaps most of the advantage derived from warm-up is psychological’. This matches my own experience where I just ‘know’ in my mind that I am going to be sparring and when I step onto the training area I ‘know’ what I am there for and instantly allow those changes to take place, and allow my mind to automatically focus on what it needs to do.

So should we warm up or not? I would suggest that even if there is just a psychological advantage of doing a warm-up then this is justification enough.  However, hopefully this blog post will show that the benefits, physically, of a warm up are questionable.

Just to announce on my blog too that my book “No Worries” helping people clear nerves and worry, stress and anxiety is released on Amazon. Please take a look - in paperback and Kindle!


  1. Hi Gary..I used to find if I did not warm up at least to get my lungs and heart working I would hit a wall within 2 -3 mins recover from that and I was fine afterwards. That was purely from a performance persepective but from a injury point of view ...Most injuries have have had happen when fatigued ..

  2. Fatigue definitely sets the environment for potential injuries!

    I'm pondering on the 'getting first wind' effect you describe above. I'm starting to believe that it is just purely a psychological state.

    To get you thinking on it, here's a thought. If a hungry lion appears, you'll have no problem running as fast as you possibly can go - the first wind effect doesn't happen.