How to Warm Up for Sports: The Ultimate Guide

Athlete stretching neck to show how to warm up before playing sports.

Both youth and adult athletes are at greater risk (for somewhat obvious reasons) for lower back and neck injuries, especially overuse injuries, as the result of physical activity.

In order to play sports safely and reduce the risk of injury, you need to warm up properly.

Static vs Dynamic Stretches

One of the most important things to remember when warming up for sports is to never do any static stretches. Static stretching is when you hold a position for an extended period of time, which can actually lead to injury if you’re not careful. Instead, focus on doing dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are active movements that take your joints and muscles through a full range of motion. They’re much safer and more effective at preparing your body for physical activity.

Here are some dynamic stretches that you can do to warm up your neck, back, and upper body. (Remember to always consult with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine.)

  • Neck rotations: Slowly rotate your head in a circular motion, making sure to keep your shoulders relaxed. Do this for 30 seconds in each direction.
  • Arm circles: Hold your arms out to the sides at shoulder level and make small circles, gradually making the circles bigger. Do this for 30 seconds in each direction.
  • Torso twists: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Gently twist your torso to the right about 90 degrees, then to the left. Do this for 30 seconds in each direction.
  • Shoulder shrugs: Raise your shoulders up to your ears, then release them down. Do this for 30 seconds.
  • Hamstring curls: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Slowly lift one leg up towards your chest, then lower it back down. Do this for 30 seconds on each side.

After you’ve completed these dynamic stretches, you should start to feel your muscles loosen up and your body temperature increase. You’ll be ready to take on any sport! Just remember to listen to your body and stop if you start to feel any pain. Warming up properly is the key to a successful and injury-free sports experience.

Cool Down Exercises

After playing sports, it’s a good idea to do some cool down exercises. This will help your body slowly return to its resting state and reduce the risk of injury. There are a variety of stretches you can do to cool down, and the best ones will vary depending on the sport you play.

One great way to cool down is to repeat the warm up stretches you performed before you played your sport. Neck rotations, arm circles, and hamstring curls are great exercises to do. Since your body is now warm, you can also add in some static stretches to your cool down. Simply hold the stretch position but make sure you do not feel any discomfort.

When Pain Becomes Chronic or Debilitating

A little pain after playing a sport is not unexpected but when pain worsens, becomes chronic or debilitating, or starts to inhibit daily activities, it’s time to seek advice from the medical professionals at William Capicotto MD, PC. We invite you to schedule a consultation by calling (716) 881-0382.