Acute Warm-up Effects in Submaximal Athletes: An EMG Study of Skilled Violinists

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Abstract

Background

Warm-up is commonly recommended for injury prevention and performance enhancement across all activities, yet this recommendation is not supported by evidence for repetitive submaximal activities such as instrumental music performance.

Purpose

The objective of this study is to quantify the effects of cardiovascular, core muscle, and musical warm-ups on muscle activity levels, musical performance, and subjective experience in skilled violinists.

Methods

Fifty-five undergraduate, postgraduate, or professional violinists performed five randomly ordered 45-s musical excerpts of varying physical demands both before and after a randomly assigned 15-min, moderate-intensity cardiovascular, core muscle, musical (technical violin exercises), or inactive control warm-up protocol. Surface EMG data were obtained for 16 muscles of the trunk, shoulders, and right arm during each musical performance. Sound recording and perceived exertion (RPE) data were also obtained. Sound recordings were randomly ordered and rated for performance quality by blinded adjudicators. Questionnaire data regarding participant pain sites and fitness levels were used to stratify participants according to pain and fitness levels. Data were analyzed using two- and three-factor ANCOVA (surface EMG and sound recording) and Wilcoxon matched pairs tests (RPE).

Results

None of the three warm-up protocols had significant effects on muscle activity levels (P ≥ 0.10). Performance quality did not significantly increase (P ≥ 0.21). RPE significantly decreased (P < 0.05) after warm-up for each of the three experimental warm-ups; control condition RPE did not significantly decrease (P > 0.23).

Conclusion

Acute physiological and musical benefits from cardiovascular, core muscle, and musical warm-ups in skilled violinists are limited to decreases in RPE. This investigation provides data from the performing arts in support of sports medical evidence suggesting that warm-up only effectively enhances maximal strength and power performance.

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