We’ve probably all skipped warming up before exercise, right?
You may have even reasoned with avoiding it because you will ‘warm up during the exercise’.
Or you have told yourself ‘it’s just a pre-workout before my workout, so what’s the point?’.
If you’re a warmup-skipper, here are the reasons you will want to reconsider.
Warmups prepare your muscles for activity
Think of your muscles like a car engine. They aren’t raring to go at every hour of the day.
A lot of the time they’re sitting fairly dormant, or with certain parts under or overworked. Expecting them to perform at their best instantly is expecting too much.
Warming up activates your muscles to lengthen and switches on the ‘stretch reflex’. This sends signals to the brain that essentially optimises and ‘warms up’ your muscles in preparation for exercise.
Effectively warming up muscles means they are better primed to perform at their best.
Warmups help avoid injuries
All the muscle groups you’re using throughout your workout start off ‘cold’. They begin to function and move more fluidly when they start to warm up.
Your muscle groups have ligaments, tendons and cartilage with blood flowing through them. When they are working hard without being warmed up first, they’re at more risk of straining, tightening, and even snapping.
By warming up those hardworking parts you help them to have a better range of movement and elasticity. This decreases your risk of injury during your workout.
Your warmup depends on your workout
Warmups are not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to exercising at peak performance.
There are around 640 skeletal muscles in the average human body. They are organised into major groups, each responsible for their own area. Unless you’re some kind of superhero, you’re probably not going to use all of them in your workout.
Different workouts with different intensities call for different warmups.
For example, runners should focus on warming up areas such as the hamstrings and quadriceps. Upper body workout warmups will need to target pectorals, trapezius, triceps, and biceps.
Stretching – Dynamic vs Static
Dynamic stretching (jogging on the spot or bodyweight squats) is perfect for warming up. It helps the muscles reach their full range of motion in a way that is functional and constantly active.
This increases blood flow to help gear them up for action.
Static stretching (long holds in the same stretched position) is ideal as a post-workout cooldown. But as a warmup, they allow the muscles to lengthen but not contract.
This means they’re not getting the full range of motion they need.
How long should a warmup be?
Try to spend at least 5 to 10 minutes warming up. The more intense your workout is going to be, the longer your warmup should be.
Focus on large muscle groups first, then perform warmups that mimic some of the movements you’ll do while you’re exercising. For instance, if you’re planning to run or bike, do so at a slower pace to get warmed up.
Although often overlooked, warmup exercises are an important part of any exercise routine. Your body needs some kind of activity to get your muscles warmed up before you launch into your workout.
Warming up can help boost your flexibility and athletic performance, and also reduce your chance of injury.
You can perform slower versions of the movements you’ll be doing during your workout. Or you can try a variety of warmup exercises, like the ones suggested above.
Are you new to fitness, or have a medical condition or health concern? Always get advice from your GP or physical therapist before commencing any new exercise program.
Help with warming up before exercise
Give us a call on 0191 398 0000 or get in touch with us today. Our experienced and knowledgeable team can provide advice, support and techniques for warming up before exercise. Or treatment for when you haven’t!
This article was originally published in the Town & County magazine for County Durham. Download Warming Up Before Exercise in PDF format.