Whether you’re going on a run, or hitting the gym for some heavy lifting, the first thing on your list should be your warm up. The pre-exercise warm-up not only reduces the risk of injury, it may also improve performance.
But, what exactly should it look like? How long is long enough? Which exercises should I do?
I’m going to breakdown the warm-up and make it really simple for you to understand why you need to warm up, and how you can make a routine that’s best for the activity you want to do!
Why warm up?
A warm-up is actually just what it sounds like, the process of you warming your body up in preparation for more strenuous activity. The primary goal is to increase core body temperature, which will increase blood flow, and range of motion in the muscles.
Think of it this way: Have you ever played with a cold rubber band? Stretch it too far and it snaps, but warm the rubber band up in your hand and it becomes much more soft and pliable. Your body is just like that rubber band. Start a workout while your muscles are cold, and they will be hard and tight, and you will drastically increase your chances of getting injured. Start a workout after warming up, and your muscles are soft, pliable, and ready to take on the stress and strain that your workout presents.
What should a warm up include?
Whatever your warm-up includes, it should be specific to the activity you’re about to do. For example, if you’re planning to do Back Squats in your workout, performing bodyweight squats, lunges, and other similar movements in your warm up would be standard. It should include some combination of the following 3 practices:
Easy Aerobic Activity
Walk/jog around the track, hop on the bike or elliptical at the gym, anything to get that heart rate up (aim for 5 minutes)!
Specific Dynamic Stretch
Opt for dynamic stretches, such as arm circles, leg swings, or walking stretches (like walking quad or hamstring grabs). Just keep moving, according to recent research static stretching can actually hinder your performance.
These will be more specific to the activity you plan on doing. For example, if you’re planning to run, now would be the time to add in your running drills, and short strides. If you’re lifting heavy, prepare for the lift by lifting a few rounds at a lighter weight.
How long should a warm up be?
There is no specific length of time designated for the ‘best’ warm-up. This is probably because it depends on the activity you’re about to do and the intensity of that activity.
If you’re about to go for a casual jog around the neighborhood, a short 5-10 minute warm-up should be beneficial. But if you’re doing a high performance workout like sprints, or heavy lifting, 10-30 minutes would be optimal.
Whatever you’re doing, start slow and build up your pace and intensity. By the end of your warm up your heart rate should be elevated, breathing heavier, and you should be sweating.
This should be enough info to put together a good warm up routine whatever your activity. Of course, there are little tips and tricks for each specific activity, but I can’t fit it all in one blog! If you have any questions or comments, would love to hear your thoughts.