Stretching isn’t a warm-up.

If you routinely jump into workouts without preparing your body with a warm-up, you may want to reformat your routine. While a warm-up may seem like a waste of time, it will actually help you maximize the benefits of your workout.  

The most common problems with many “warm-ups” is that they’re either poorly designed, unchallenging, or mundane. If the prep-work doesn’t feel demanding or beneficial, it makes sense that it would be the first part of an exercise routine to be scratched. Yet, an inadequate warm-up, or no warm-up at all, will leave the body cold and thus in a more vulnerable and unprepared state.

A successful warm-up, one that actually fulfills its function of preparing and priming the body for  intense activity, is supremely important. If some of the prevailing warm-up mistakes have influenced your workout itinerary, read on. 

Reasons a Proper Warm-Up is Indispensable:

  • Increases Body Temperature — A properly performed warm-up will actually increase the temperature of the blood. The warmed blood is then sent to the muscles, increasing their warmth and dilation. Warm muscles are able to perform with higher levels of intensity and efficiency, making them stronger, more flexible, and less prone to injury. Thus, muscle function, performance and strength are enhanced dramatically by a warm-up.
  • Bolsters Mental Engagement and Focus — A warm-up provide the perfect opportunity to prepare your mind for the upcoming workout session. Once you’ve set aside the distractions of the days, you’ll be able to fully engage the present activity and optimize your workout.  
  • Increases Communication Between Nerves — During a warm-up the nervous system is awakened and attuned, syncing your body systems and encouraging muscle movement and strength.
  • Loosens Muscles and Joints — Getting your muscles moving before you exert maximum effort will increase your range of movement and diminishing your chances of injury.

Components of a Good Warm-up

How do you know if a warm-up is getting the job done? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it challenging? Your warm-up should involve a degree of physiological intensity that is not far removed from your actual routine. You effort level will be  lower than during your actual session but enough to get your body moving and working. A good rule of thumb is to check your sweat. If you are perspiring, your body temperature has increased.
  • Is it general? Before delving into a full-fledged session, your overall body system should be ready, and the specific muscles you will be targeting should be prepared. Even if you only plan to engage a smaller muscle group, a warm-up that engages your entire body will help prevent unnecessary strain and injury.
  • Is it individualized? The intensity of a warm-up should be customized to your overall fitness level. If you’ve had a predominantly sedentary lifestyle and are just beginning a fitness routine, your warm-up won’t be as intense as someone who has been exercising for decades.  Don’t compare yourself to others, just do what you need to do to work-up a sweat! 

Suggested Warm-Up Activities: Stationary bike or cycling, elliptical machine or treadmill, body-weight squats, rowing machine

Reference: NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training

Originally posted 2013-08-12 11:55:13.


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