Do I need to warm up? How do I know if I’m warming up correctly? Do I stretch before or after the workout? How long is long enough?
These are just a few of the questions people have about the warm up process. Most often these question stem from a lack of understanding regarding the purpose of the warm up. In this post, I explain the importance of the warm up.
“The act or an instance of preparing for a performance or a more strenuous activity”
Simply put, a warm up is a specific activity that increases blood flow and range of motion of the muscles. The primary goal of a warm up is to do exactly that, warm up the core muscle temperature. A higher temperature in the muscle makes the muscle more pliable as well as increasing its range of motion.
Why is this important? Well, have you ever tried to stretch a frozen rubber band? If you have then you know that frozen rubber bands snap as soon as you start stretching them. However, if you slightly warm the rubber band, it’s ability to stretch drastically increases, and the risk of it snapping drastically decreases. This process is similar to warming up your muscles. Before a warm up, the muscle is cold, hard, and not easily pliable. Doing physically strenuous activities with your muscles in this state can likely lead to injuries. However, if you implement a proper warm up, your muscles will react in a similar fashion to the warm rubber band. During a proper warm up, your muscles become soft, pliable, and ready to take on more physically challenging activities. With a proper warm up, the risk of injury for normal physical activities drops drastically.
Now what is a proper warm up? Well, that can be a tough question to answer in just one blog post because it is highly dependent on the activity that you plan to do after the warm up. Instead, I give a list of guidelines that might be a bit more helpful. So, before your next physical endeavor let me suggest two simple rules of warm up.
1. The warm up activity should resemble or relate to the activity your preparing to do. If you were warming up for a run you probably wouldn’t do back squats, right? Think about the muscle groups that will be used during the planned activity and perform a warm up specific to those muscle groups.
2. A warm up should be done at an effort that moderately increases blood flow and core muscle temperature, usually between 10-30 minutes. A good sign of increased core muscle temperature is when the body begins to sweat (although environmental conditions effect this as well). I can’t tell you how many times I see someone do a 30 second stretch before a workout. Invest the time up front in your warm up and I promise you it will pay off in helping to avoiding injury.
Recently studies show that an active warm up is hugely beneficial to avoiding injury and increasing performance. This simply means taking your body through a series of movements related to the upcoming activity. These movements should be done in increasing speeds and intensities until desired range of motion and muscle temperature are achieved.
By following the above suggestions you should be equipped to create simple warm up for your desired activity.
As always, I hope this helps and let me know your thoughts.