Warm up I: potential mechanisms and the effects of passive warm up on exercise performance

Sports Med. 2003;33(6):439-54. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333060-00005.


Despite limited scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness, warm-up routines prior to exercise are a well-accepted practice. The majority of the effects of warm up have been attributed to temperature-related mechanisms (e.g. decreased stiffness, increased nerve-conduction rate, altered force-velocity relationship, increased anaerobic energy provision and increased thermoregulatory strain), although non-temperature-related mechanisms have also been proposed (e.g. effects of acidaemia, elevation of baseline oxygen consumption (.VO(2)) and increased postactivation potentiation). It has also been hypothesised that warm up may have a number of psychological effects (e.g. increased preparedness). Warm-up techniques can be broadly classified into two major categories: passive warm up or active warm up. Passive warm up involves raising muscle or core temperature by some external means, while active warm up utilises exercise. Passive heating allows one to obtain the increase in muscle or core temperature achieved by active warm up without depleting energy substrates. Passive warm up, although not practical for most athletes, also allows one to test the hypothesis that many of the performance changes associated with active warm up can be largely attributed to temperature-related mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Muscle Proteins / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*


  • Muscle Proteins