The Warm Up – A Workout Essential

Raise the Heart Rate and Stretch Muscles Before Exercise

You are running late but you want to get a workout in, what gets cut? Not the extra set of leg presses or the 20 minutes of cardio. Many people choose to lose the warm up. Here’s what you need to know before you make that cut.

warm up exercisesA proper warm up can prevent injury and improve performance. A warm up will increase blood flow to muscles and raise the body’s temperature, enabling muscles to move more efficiently. Warming up will increase the flexibility of joints and their surrounding tissues, allowing them to move more freely and making them less susceptible to damage. Mentally, a warm up can give you the time you need to get psyched up for your workout, so you can focus on what you are doing and make the most of it.

A warm up is a short period of light physical activity prior to more intense exercise. A general warm up will include large body movements and moving stretches. More specific warm ups can include actions similar to those that will be used in the workout as in sport specific training.

During a warm up:

  • Tendons and ligaments become more supple
  • Energy systems in the body adapt and get prepared for activity
  • Blood vessels feeding the muscles dilate and those taking care of other things, such as digestion, constrict: blood is directed towards active muscles.

A good warm up will include rhythmic large muscle movements, such as marching, a light run or a brisk walk. This will move the blood to those large muscles and prepare the heart for some serious work.

The stretching part of your warm up should be dynamic or moving stretches. Dynamic stretches tend to be slowly repeated movements such as arm swings for the rotator cuffs or an easy split squat for the hip flexors and quadriceps. Stretch after you’ve done some large muscle movement to raise the heart rate. Focus on areas that have been tight all day and those muscles that will be stressed during your workout.

Activity specific movements are also a great idea for the warm up and can be part of the stretching component or the large muscle movements. For instance, if you are going to run, include knee raises and hamstring curls in your warm up. If you are going to lift weights, do one set with a lighter weight first. For golf or tennis warm ups, include arm and waist movements that imitate your swing.

You will know if you are warmed up because your heart rate will have increased and you will be breathing a little harder than you do normally. And, of course, your body will feel warm!

A five to ten minute warm up will prevent injury and improve the effectiveness of your workout. It’s like money in the bank!

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