Recently a coach & athlete asked me if a "more scientific" warm up, that included "endless lunges" was better than the "old school" method of a jog & some strides.
This was my reply:
Warm up is a tricky one; here’s what I see about warm-up nowadays:
1. Old school – we felt it was a fixed set of rules
2. Theoretical – learned from lectures, research & non-human resources (often applied by clever, theoretically trained individuals without ruts in their foreheads from being trackside for 30 years!
3. Practical – based on the following principles:
a. What combinations of applied science & experience give the athlete a best chance at success
b. Individualized, based on athlete type: power-type - plenty of recruitment or endurance type - prolonged aerobic build-up, etc.
c. Event – shorter the event, the more prolonged the warm up & vice versa
d. Fitness level – the fitter the athlete is, the longer & more specific the warm-up required
4. All this being said, make sure that the central system is brought up evenly to operating temp (1*C raise in core temp – therefore longer WU when cold). By even I mean it must be slow enough to ensure that local muscle beds – like quads & calves, do not develop local anaerobic discomfort/thickness. Breathing must get to steady state without a bypass – i.e. heavy breathing then settling, but rather gradually go up aerobically. HR must do the same – i.e. rise steadily, not up, over & then back down. All this done top ensure athlete's best fast-component VO2 kinetics.
5. Peripherally, once core temp is up, movement must be facilitated & muscle recruited – this includes progressive range of motion activities, (no passive stretching!) & then move up to movements that load beyond the repeated load that is expected in competition – hence the lunges, bounds, hops, strides, etc. This to recruit muscle for efficiency (over & above minimum for safe execution). Then rhythm needs to be established, which is sequential coordinated movement that is reflexive – all this serves to “activate” & potentiate the running motion. Warm up should also include error-proofing drills, like connecting chest to pelvis & with triathletes, overriding the shadow of the other 2 events on the run, like heel walks & crawling
6. Finally a warm-up is JUST as much mental/emotional, as physical – it should connect the athlete to his body & bring him from whatever other activity & mindset he was in, to one that is optimal for racing this race; a feeling of self-efficacy on every level. A warm up creates focus, optimal arousal & a readiness to deliver a performance commensurate with current fitness & ability or even beyond
Hope this helps – developing the specifics for the individual requires some work, but a walk, a progressive run, some dynamic drills, strides & a prime run are the basic gist of a good pre-race warm up