If you are a regular at the gym or have played a sport, you are probably familiar with the concept of “warming up” before exercise. But how do you do it? How long should it last? Should your warm up change depending on the activity you are about to undertake?
The general purpose of a warm up is to prepare your muscles and joints for the punishment they are about to receive. In addition to preventing injury and unnecessary soreness (tips on how to recover fast can be found here), a good warm up can also help boost your performance in the body of your workout..
Best ways to warm up
If you consistently follow some sort of warm up routine, that’s a good start. But for best results, there are two key components that should ideally be included.
It’s best to start with some form of cardiovascular activity to get your body warm. Aim for a minimum of 5 to 15 minutes to get a light sweat going. You could jog outside or on a treadmill, jump on a stationery bike or skip with a rope.
The second component to incorporate into your warm up is dynamic stretching. There is a general consensus that dynamic stretching should be undertaken before any sort of exercise. It simply involves active movements that allow your muscles and joints to move through a full range of motion.
Ideally, the dynamic stretches that you perform will mimic the movements that you are about to undertake during your training session. For example, if you are doing a lower body weights circuit, you would want to include dynamic stretches such as leg swings and hip rotations. It’s also a good idea to move through the exercises that you will perform with bodyweight only. This could include sets of bodyweight squats, bodyweight lunges and bodyweight hip hinges all performed at full range to warm your muscles and joints into the movement pattern.
Static stretching, where you hold a stretch position for a period of time, is better performed at the end of your training session as part of your cool down. The benefit of doing static stretches after your workout is that your body is warm, so you are less likely to pull a muscle.