How to reduce your risk of injury and get your body ready for ANY workout.
Are you the type of person who walks into a gym, finds your favorite piece of equipment then immediately starts working out?
Well, we’ve got good news and bad news.
The bad news is you could be putting yourself at serious risk of injury by not warming up correctly before your workout.
Here’s the good news, in this article we’re going to break down everything you need to know about warming up, including why you need to do it, what you should avoid, and which exercises you should always do before starting a session.
Whether you think you know what you’re doing or you skip a warm-up altogether, read on and find out exactly how to make your warm-ups more effective.
Why is it Important to Warm Up?
A lot of people don’t like to warm up because they simply don’t see the point. They don’t think they’re at real risk of injury and they believe that doing a few ‘warm-up sets’ or by turning the speed down before they start to sprint on the treadmill is enough.
But the truth is, getting injured, pulling a muscle, and doing unnecessary damage to your body is a very real threat, and if you continue to disregard this, it’s only a matter of time before you get seriously hurt.
A good way to think of it is like your car, which takes a few minutes to heat up on a cold winter morning, or how if you’d just had the engine fixed, you’d take it easy before flooring it the first time you drove it.
Another option is to think of a new rubber band that you immediately pull as hard as you can (and snap) compared to old bands that have been used a few times first.
Starting to get the hint?
Your body functions in a very similar way when it comes to exercise. You need to get your body ready for action before you go all in, if not, your muscles, just like the rubber band, could snap.
The Key to a Successful Warm-Up
A successful warm-up should get your body ready for more intense activity.
It should help you to:
To successfully do this your warm-up should be ‘dynamic’, as that will give you the most complete way to prepare your body.
A dynamic warm-up effectively means using movement to prepare your body for exercise. It was once believed that you should stretch to warm your muscles up (we touch on this below) but now it’s understood that moving to warm your body up is the best way to prepare for exercise.
The movements and exercises included in your dynamic warm-up should be similar to the workout you’re about to do. It should also include some compound exercises such as squats, lunges, or bodyweight thrusters to work multiple joints at once.
For example, if you’re about to lift weights, a warm-up that involved light on the spot jogging, bodyweight lunges, air shoulder presses, and walking lunges, would work your muscles without any load, and prepare your entire body for more intense exercise.
As the name suggests, static stretching involves standing still and stretching your muscles, however as time has evolved we’ve realized that doing this, especially when the muscles are cold, can actually lead to injuries, instead of preventing them.
However, before you dismiss stretching entirely, static stretching does still have a place in your workout, but it should now be included at the end, instead of at the beginning.
Try adding static stretching at the end of your workout as part of a ‘cool-down routine, to help your body ease the tension in your muscles.
Just like with the dynamic warm-up, you should make sure you stretch the muscles that you’ve just used, so for example, if you were running or cycling, you should focus on stretching the lower body, glutes, and calves, after your workout.
Best Exercises Before a Warm-Up
As we mentioned, your dynamic warm-up should include similar exercises to the session you’re about to do, but with the exercises we list below, you should cover every type of workout and fully prepare your body for whatever your session involves.
March on the spot: This is a great way to get the entire body moving before you do anything else. Drive the knees up in front of you as you do it and pump your arms too. It’ll get the blood pumping and get your body ready for the rest of the warm-up. The march should last between 2-3 minutes and it’s a good idea to start slow before eventually performing a gentle jog, just make sure to keep the knees up and pump the arms.
A good dynamic warm-up takes no longer than 3-5 minutes, something everyone has time for. Our advice is to go through this list and give all exercises a try, and if you need something more specific for your workout, feel free to add it in.
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