Warming Up: Is it Beneficial to Include Functional Core Exercises?

Does adding functional core exercises to your warm-up help your performance? Turns out it probably doesn’t! Recent scientific research looked at what makes a good warm-up.

The majority of athletes use some process to warm-up. A warm-up is usually performed before participating in technical sports or exercise and this process prepares an athlete for performance. A good warm-up has been thought to increase neuromuscular performance as well as mental performance and motivation. Perhaps the biggest reason athletes warm-up is to prevent injury. Although most athletes incorporate some sort of warm-up routine, there has been no real confirmation on the effectiveness of various methods. A recent study was conducted to measure the impact of including functional exercises for the trunk muscles in a warm-up program prior to sprint performance.1

The study consisted of 121 elite youth soccer players (ranging for 13-18 years old) from two German professional sport clubs that were divided into two groups. One group performed a normal soccer warm-up first and then performed the same warm-up four days later supplemented with functional exercises for the trunk muscles. The normal soccer warm-up consisted of nonspecific running, coordination exercises, stretching, and acceleration runs. The second group performed those warm-ups in the reverse order.

Upon completing the warm-up program, each participant had to perform a linear sprint of about 30 meters, and a sprint that involved a change of direction. Linear sprint times were recorded for 5 meters, 10 meters, 20 meters, 25 meters, and 30 meters. The sprint that changed direction recorded times for 5 meters left, 10 meters left, 5 meters right, and 10 meters right.2

The trunk stabilization exercises consisted of a cycle of a prone kneeling exercise, forearm bridging, bridging with one leg to lift the pelvis, and lateral bridging with alternating leg flexion and leg extension. All exercises were performed for 8 reps per side. There were two age groups that were created to prevent fatigue in the younger athletes, as well as to assure activation in the older athletes.3

The results of the study indicated all of the subjects were significantly faster at all of the measured distances in the linear sprint after the normal soccer warm-up, compared to that of the trunk exercise warm-up. There was no significant difference for the change-of-direction sprint 5 meters left between the two programs. The normal warm-up group also produced faster times for the sprints 10 meters left, 5 meters right, and 10 meters right.4

Based on the results of the study, there is little evidence to conclude that the functional exercises provided an benefit to performance compared to the normal warm-up. However, the results did indicate that the components of a warm-up program, such as the soccer warm-up, did display improvement. Consequently, an optimal warm-up for sprint performance may contain nonspecific running, coordination exercises, stretching exercises, and acceleration runs. Functional exercises have their place in exercise routines, but according to this recent study, it is not during the warm-up.5

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