Warming up your muscles is one of the most important aspects of any workout. A successful warm-up routine prepares you both physically and mentally for what is about to come.
Why Warm Up?
Warm-Ups are good for your heart. In one study, 44 men ran on a treadmill for 10-15 seconds without a warm up. 70% of those men showed abnormal EEG (heart monitor) changes caused by low blood supply to the heart.
The next week, the people with abnormal readings performed a 2-minute warm up before performing the same test mentioned above. After the second test, nearly everyone improved.
Warming up protects your heart by letting it gradually ramp up to higher gear.
Without warm-ups, the shock and strain you place on your cardio system can cause minor damage if done repeatedly over the long term. In other words, don’t skip your warmups!
Warm-ups Increase Muscle Elasticity
Muscle elasticity is an important concept in the process of warming up. Muscle elasticity means that muscles have the ability to both stretch and contract.
A study on the role of warm-ups in muscular injury prevention found that “a greater force and increase in length are needed to tear isometrically preconditioned (warmed) muscle.” The study also found that muscles that were not warmed up appeared “more inelastic at each increase in length.”
Muscles with greater elasticity are muscles that perform better and are less likely to get injured.
This is important for any type of exercise, but especially important for things like HIIT.
What’s in a good Warm-Up?
A warm-up should be quick, simple, and relatively easy. There’s no need to completely tax yourself before a workout or run. Mark’s Daily Apple has a great article on keeping warming up simple.
Aim to practice Dynamic stretching, where you go into a stretch position, push slightly and gently where there’s tension, hold for 2-3 seconds, release the stretch, and then repeating 5-10 times.
A dynamic warm-up incorporates aspects of dynamic stretching, but the two are not the same.
Goals of a good Warm-Up
Before we get into the details, let’s talk about how a proper warm-up should feel. This way, you’ll be able to listen to your body and know when it is ready for exercise.
Your body should feel warm.
If you are shivering or still haven’t broken a slight sweat from your warm-up, then your body is not ready for exercise. It’s called a “warm-up” for a reason.
Your muscles and joints should feel flexible.
You’re not going to be more flexible than you ever have before, but you should feel as if your muscles and joints are able to move through a full range-of-motion with no cracks, pops, sticking points, or feelings of tightness.
Your mind should feel mentally ready for the workout.
During your warm-up, aim to focus your mind on the task at hand. By the time it’s completed, you should be mentally focused.
Great exercise with strong intensity is best (and most safely) performed free of distraction. Take this as down time from your busy life to be in the moment and enjoy using your body.
You have the whole rest of the day to think about your job and everything else going on in life; use your warmup as a special transition and the start of a nice break. Besides having a higher quality workout, you’ll return to the day refreshed and relaxed.
Along with high intensity exercise, this practice is a great way to reduce anxiety.
Mix, match and combine these to your heart’s content! Try to limber up your whole body if you’re about to do something intense for more than 30 minutes.
Use a foam roller or tennis ball to apply rhythmic, gentle pressure to your muscles and ligaments.
This is a great way to flush your muscles with blood and massage out cramps. Start with a minimal amount of pressure, and increase gradually; your experience with the foam roller should be light and fluid, not hard and painful.
Rolling is great for overall back health, too. While a tennis ball can work fine, the $18 investment of a foam roller is definitely worth it!
2-3 minutes of jumping jacks or jumping rope.
The goal here is to get your joints moving and heart pumping. This is the “warm” part of the warm-up.
30 toy soldiers (15 each leg)
Focus on the movement, not the amount of reps. You should feel your muscles stretching at the top of the movement.
General movements to warm up the joints
- 20 small arm circles
Make sure that 10 are clockwise and the other 10 are counter clockwise.
- 20 large arm circles
Don’t forget: 10 clockwise, 10 counter clockwise. Move through these slowly if you feel any resistance in your shoulders.
Stronger warmups to really get the blood flowing!
- 10-20 pushups
Adjust the amount of reps as necessary and focus on engaging the core while pushing with the chest.
- 20 lunges (10 each leg)
Focus on getting deep into the lunge. Feel the stretch in your hip flexors while working the quads.
If you haven’t done your 8fit workout yet, try the above routine and get started now!
A few things to remember
Your warm-up should get you ready for exercise, it shouldn’t be too taxing.
Listen to your body. If you’re not physically warm and your movement doesn’t feel fluid and relaxed, it’s best to spend more time warming up.
If you are lifting weights or doing any other type of strength exercise, remember to start with a warm-up set of every exercise.
If you stretch before exercising, do it after warming-up. This is easier on your joints than stretching cold.