I see it all the time at the gym. People come in, check in at the front desk, hang their keys on the board and go right to the bench press. Are they going to warm up at all? How many of you reading this right now have done that? I know I used to be one of those people in the past. I would just get in there and start full throttle not having a clue as to what I was doing to myself and the potential injuries I could have caused myself. Warming up is very important for a few reasons. It absolutely can aid in preventing injuries during your workout. It can also help enhance your performance during your workout. In fact the more intense your workout is going to be the more important a proper warmup is.
When you start a new workout routine or you are starting a new program your body is just getting used to those specific exercises. Nobody ever tries to run a marathon without first warming up. So why would we just jump right into something without really getting our body in a state of warmth? Working out is one of many elements involved in losing weight and leading a healthy life style. If you are not used to working out, a warm up is crucial to help your body ease into it.
Warming up before exercise slowly loosens your muscles at a better pace than just jumping right into a routine. Studies have suggested that warming up before a exercise regimen can prevent injury. Here are some of the specific benefits of a proper warm up:
• Increased muscle temperature: A warmer muscle tends to contract more forcefully and relax a lot faster. This decreases the probability of overstretching and causing injury.
• Blood vessel dilation: This can reduce the resistance to blood flow and have a little less stress on the heart.
• Increased body temperature: This increases muscle elasticity and reduces the risk of strains and muscle pulls.
• Increased blood temperature: Temperature of blood increases when it travels through your muscles. As that rises the binding of oxygen to hemoglobin decreases so oxygen is more readily available to your muscles. This can improve endurance.
• Improved range of motion (ROM): As your muscles increase in temperature so do your joints. In turn this helps increase the available ROM that you have and this helps improve performance.
A typical warm up should start out slow with a gradual increase to what you are trying to accomplish. If you are a runner you should be jogging a bit mixing in a few sprints to engage fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. For those of us that like to strength train you should be starting out with light weight for a few sets gradually working your way into the exercise you are trying to accomplish. I personally like to run about 2 miles before I strength train. By the time I’m done. I’m very warm, loose and ready to start my workout. Another point I would like to make is that the best time to stretch is after a workout or after your warmup. This way your muscles are loose and more pliable and at less risk for injury.
Keep in mind that each person’s warmup is different. It can be very individualized and only comes with experience, practice and experimentation. I recommend trying various ways at a slow pace to find what works best for you.