When was the last time you had a thorough warm up before you exercised?
Unfortunately, three minutes on a bike or treadmill followed by a ten-second hamstring stretch doesn’t count. From time to time, we all might be guilty of skipping a warm up. But if that has become your norm, it’s time to rethink how you allocate your exercise time.
Warm ups matter – we know it, studies prove it
Over the years, ample research has been done to support the fact that completing a thorough warm up prior to exercising offers significant benefits, including injury prevention, improvements in mobility and increased energy. Collectively, these benefits also contribute to longevity and wellbeing.
Including a comprehensive warm up in your routine can be as important as exercise itself. Whether you’re looking to improve physical performance or maintain functional capacity as you age, a proper warm up often leads to improved results.
So why do so many people skip the warm up?
The reasons usually include not having enough time or the perception that warm ups are the most expendable component of exercising. But perhaps the biggest hurdle is a lack of education on how to warm up properly. The fact is, many of us just don’t know what we need to do to warm up effectively. So, let’s set the record straight.
Recipe for an effective warm up
The purpose of a warm up is to prepare your body for the demands you are about to place on it – be it exercise, sport or other physical tasks. And, like the workout that will follow, it needs to have structure.
The warm up movements should progress from single-joint (e.g., ankles, shoulder) to more complex multi-joint movements, such as downward dog or squats. A full and structured warm up typically includes moving through these four steps (in this order);
- Myofascial release – using a foam roller or trigger point ball;
- Dynamic stretching – active movements where the joints go through full ranges of motion, from single-joint to multi-joint (as suggested above);
- Muscle activation exercises – “turning on” most muscle groups, but not to fatigue (ex. a few step back lunges or walk out push ups);
- Sport or workout specific preparation – literally “warming up” your body temperature (ex. light jog on the spot, jumping jacks).
A warm up including all these components should take about ten minutes.
Another key to making your warm up efficient and effective is to write it down so you have a plan. This minimizes time wasted thinking about what you might want to do and allows you to move right into a warm up that you and your body will benefit from.
For further guidance on warm ups or other aspects of your workout, don’t hesitate to contact us regarding our kinesiology and personal training services at Copeman’s Movement and Strength Lab. We run warm ups like this with our clients, so if that looks fun and gets you excited to move more, let us custom design a program to help you achieve your goals!
After you’ve mastered the warm up, don’t forget to cool down!