It is not uncommon for a person to skip a warm-up and jump right into a workout. That may not be the best way to go. Warming up is essential to having a quality workout. The purpose of a warm-up is exactly what it sounds like, to warm up your body.
Warm muscles are less likely to get injured than cold muscles. This concept doesn’t just apply to your muscles. If you were to freeze a rubber band, it would lose some of its flexibility; it would take much less effort to snap it in half. It’s the same with your muscles. Cold muscles are more susceptible to injury at the same level of intensity as a warm muscle.
Your body warms itself up by redirecting its fluids to the working joints and muscles which allows for more mobility and energy efficiency during your workout. You could think of your body like it’s a machine – the joints need lubrication to perform their job most effectively. Warming up does not have to last very long. A quality warm-up can be done in 5 minutes.
So, what are some elements of a good warm-up?
1. Dynamic Exercises: Dynamic exercises are exaggerated movements that take a joint through its full range of motion (ROM). This is a great way to “apply oil” to your rusty joints in preparation for a workout. These movements should be done at a comfortable pace. Moving through these too fast is called ballistic stretching, and is counter-productive. Below are some examples of different dynamic exercises.
(Note:These positions should not be held for very long. Performing 1-2 sets of 10 repetitions of each will get the job done.)
2. MyoFascial Release (MR): More commonly known as massage, MR is a great way to increase blood flow to your working muscles. MR also loosens up a connective tissue called fascia which allows for increased ROM. If you were to think of fascia as a wrinkly shirt, MR irons it out and makes it more “presentable” for the workout setting. Below are a few examples of ways to perform MR on yourself.
(Note: These exercises will feel uncomfortable. That’s okay… the pressure you apply now results in tension released later. )
How do I know what “the best” moves are…?
1. Muscle Groups: Make sure that your warm-up relates to your workout. For example, if your workout is focused around running/walking, you will want to focus on loosening up the muscle groups around your hips, knees, and ankles.
2. Activity: It is also a good idea to include a low intensity version of the exercises you will be doing in the workout. For example, if you are doing a strength workout that includes bench pressing, it would be a good idea to do a couple of sets with just the bar first. Likewise, if you are doing a cardio workout that involves sprints on a bike, it would be a good idea to start off biking at a casual pace.
How do I know when I’m warm and ready to go?
A good rule of thumb to know when your body has transitioned into workout mode is when you have broken a sweat. This does not mean that you have to be dripping fluids off your body. It could simply mean that you feel some moisture on your forehead.
If you don’t already, plan your warm-ups as a part of your workout. Not only does it make your workouts safer, but it also gives your body more potential for a better workout.