A Study into the Effect of Varying Length of Warm Up on Performance of 400 Metre Sprint

Last Updated: 21 Jun 2021
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A research proposal consisting of literature review outline and outline methodology. The proposed study looks at the effects of different lengths of warm up time on performance of the 400 metre sprint amongst athletes.


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The following is a proposal for a research study looking at the effects of different warm up times on performance of 400 metre sprint. Warming up, it is popularly thought, is beneficial for athletic performance, although there is a need for more empirical evidence to support this, as well as more research into the precise mechanisms whereby warming up benefits performance (Alter 2004). There are different ways to warm up, including dynamic and static moves, and some suggest mental warming up is as important as physical.

While the last 10 years have seen a number of studies looking at the impact of warming up on different types of sport, these studies have been primarily concerned with looking at the differences between ways to warm up. Very few studies have looked at the ways in which warm up time impacts on performance, and none have specifically examined the impact of different warm up times on the 400 metre sprint. In order to address this gap, and to help athletes achieve their optimum performance, the following briefly overviews the current literature on the subject, then sets out the methodology which will be followed in the full research study.

Literature Review

This section outlines some of the main ideas which will be explored in more detail in the final proposal. The study aims to examine the effects of various lengths of warm up times on the performance of the 400 metre sprint. The overall aim is to both add to our theoretical understanding of the relationship of warm-up time and running performance, but also to inform sports training by helping discover the optimum warm-up time to improve performance in sprinting. In order to fully understand how warm-up times can impact sprint performance, there is also a need to explore related areas, for example fatigue, motivation and the different possible types of warm-up available.

In broad terms, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms whereby sprinting can be improved through warm up. There is some debate about the precise way this happens, but reasons include the psychological: the runner is able to adjust and mentally prepare for what is ahead, and the physical. Physical mechanisms include increasing body temperature, thought to reduce muscle stiffness, increase the speed of conduction between nerves, change the force/velocity relationship in muscles, and increase the amount of energy available (Kramer et al 2011). Warm up also produces increased muscle temperature, increases the availability of oxygen to the muscles as well as the ability to take up oxygen. It also lowers the level of lactates in the blood. It is also thought to decrease the reliance upon anaerobic sources of exercise during the activity period. Because sprinting is a powerful activity which needs strong muscle contractions, warming up is thought to reduce the likelihood of tearing muscles (Carr 1999). Despite evidence that warm up activities are not uniformly good for sports performance, for example not necessarily correlating with improved speeds, warming up is generally recommended before sprinting (for example Dintiman and Ward 2003).

A number of variables seem to mediate between warm up and sprint performance. These include fatigue, motivation and the type of warm up performed. Fatigue is particularly relevant for this study. While it seems that warming up is broadly beneficial (Boyle 2004), it is likely that over-long warm ups may make the athlete over-tired and reduce performance. Additionally, Tomaras and Macintosh (2011) suggest that low intensity warm ups are better than high or moderate intensity ones, as they also are less likely to cause fatigue (Tomaras and MacIntosh 2011). The latter is corroborated by Stewart and Sleivert (1998). Motivation is also relevant. While long warm ups might demotivate athletes, there is a need to warm up mentally as well as physically, perhaps by running over certain movements mentally in advance (National Coaching Foundation 2007). Finally, the type of warm up performed seems to be important, and the bulk of research studies in the area look at the relative merits and drawbacks of different types. There has been particular interest in the differences between static and dynamic warm ups (for example Hilfiker et al 2007, Bradley et al 2007). Dynamic warm ups are those which involve motion, usually linked to the sports activity which is to be performed (Brooks 2004)

A number of empirical research studies look at related areas, with varied relevance for the present area under study. The area of sprint performance has been of particular interest to researchers from 2000 onwards, with a number of studies in this area. Stewart et al (2007) for example, compared different types of warm-up, finding that warm up was more effective than stretching. Vetter (2007) also compared warm up types, looking at 6 types of warm up in terms of their impact on sprint as well as jump, finding that warm up had a negative impact on jump performance, but not on sprint time. However, this study did not look at the impact of different times of warm up. Girard et al (2009) compared running as a warm up with strength-based warm ups, finding that both were equally effective, however this study looked at impact upon isometric knee extension, so is of only limited relevance for the current area of interest. Other studies, for example Binnie et al (2011) found no difference between types of warm up procedure on sprint performance. Nelson et al (2005) found that stretching can reduce the performance of high-power sprinting, but their tests were carried out over short distances only: 20 metres. O’Sullivan et al (2009) found warm up, as well as stretching, beneficial for injured athletes. Other researchers are concerned with the differences between stretching and other warm up techniques including jogging and exercises such as ‘jumping jacks’ (MacAuley and Best 2007). There is also some interest in the relative merits of low, medium and high-intensity warm ups (for example Mitchell and Huston 1993). Bishop (2003) suggests that ‘active’ warm up may have beneficial effects on performance, although should not be too intense.

Some research studies have already explored the link between warm up time and performance, however these are very limited. For example, Turki et al (2012) looked at stretch warm-ups performed for varying amounts of time before sprint. They found that sprints performed within 5 minutes of warm-up were adversely effected by sets of stretches, however their studies involved 10 and 20 metre sprints only, and their sample set contained only 16 athletes. There are relatively few studies exploring. Hajoglou et al (2005) look at the impact of warm up time, but upon performance in cycle trials. They found that 4-5 minute endurance cycling trials were performed better after warm up, but found no evidence for warm-up duration having an impact. Arnett (2002) looked at the difference between prolonged and reduced warm ups, and found increased duration of warm up was not beneficial to performance,but this study examined swim performance.

Therefore, while a number of studies explore the types of warm-up activities which work best, less attention has been paid to the relationship between time spent on warm-up and performance. Additionally, some studies use different types of athlete, and are hence less relevant to sprinters. For example, studies carried out amongst rugby players can offer only limited insights to sprint performance. To the extent that existing studies look at sprint, they also tend to look at short sprint performance, typically 30m or less.

In the light of this, it is felt that the current study will add new insights into the understanding of how to achieve optimum sprint performance.Not only has the link between warm-up time and sprint performance been under-investigated, there is no investigation at all of the impact of different warm up times on 400m sprint.There seems to be mixed evidence about the impact of warm up generally on performance, both in sprint and other types of sport. The following research hypothesis will therefore be tested by the study:

  • Length of time spent on warm up has an impact upon performance in 400m sprint.
  • A number of research questions will be investigated in the study:
  • Does length of time spent in warm up have an effect upon sprint performance
  • What length warm up time is associated with fastest sprint performance
  • What are the mechanisms linking warm up time and sprint performance


This section sets out the way in which the research study will be carried out. It divides into logical subsections to cover the different areas involved.


The study will involve 40 athletes. For the purposes of this study, athletes are restricted to men and women aged 16-30 who take part in competitive running at least once a month, who are a member of a sports club or association, and who train daily for at least an hour. The researcher will contact a number of sports bodies including local running clubs and the university running association in the first instance, to find suitable participants to take part. Initially, contact will be made by the administrative secretary or similar by telephone or email to explain the purpose of the study, and to request help in finding suitable candidates to take part. Care will be taken to ensure that the sample is representative of the wider population of interest (sprinters), and that bias is avoided in the selection procedure (Monsen and Horn 2007).

Materials and Procedure

The study will involve 40 athletes performing the same warm up routine. The routine includes jogging as well as dynamic and static stretching. Each athlete will perform a 5 minute warm up, then their performance running the 400 metres will be timed. Two days later, the same athletes will be timed running, this time after a 10 minute warm up. This will be repeated twice, each time after two days, and each time increasing the warm up time by 10 minutes (to 20 minutes and 30 minutes).The aim is to investigate which warm up time produces the same results. One issue with this approach is ensuring that conditions are equivalent on each day that the test is carried out. If weather conditions differ, this may cause differences in running speed (Hawley 2000). Equally, diet variations or other variations personal to the athletes might cause changes in recorded running speed, but these are less of a problem as, unlike the weather, they will probably not affect all the athletes who take part. One way of dealing with results being impacted by variables aside from the one tested would be to randomly assign athletes into four groups, each of these are tested on the same day, and each warms up for a particular length of time. However, this would reduce the sample size for each group, and larger sample sizes yield more reliable results (Ware and Brewer 1999). The first procedure will therefore be adopted. Because the study involves human subjects, ethical considerations need to be observed to ensure that no one involved comes to any harm or gains unfair advantage by being included in the study.

Data Analysis

The data will be quantitative in nature (that is, expressed as numbers rather than text). It will be entered into a statistical computer programme, such as SPSS, in order to carry out descriptive and other statistical tests. The ANOVA test will be performed on the data. It is a widely used statistical procedure which compares data from investigations where there are more than 2 conditions. Rather than using several t-tests to compare means, the ANOVA test compares all sets of results, to indicate whether the results differ significantly from condition to condition (Brace et al 2006).


The above has given an overview of the methodology and relevant literature for this proposed research study, looking at whether variations in warm up time have an impact upon performance for athletes completing a 400 metre sprint.


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A Study into the Effect of Varying Length of Warm Up on Performance of 400 Metre Sprint. (2018, Nov 30). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-study-into-the-effect-of-varying-length-of-warm-up-on-performance-of-400-metre-sprint/

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