How to warm up correctly before exercise
You know you need to warm up before pretty much every single workout—but how often do you actually do it? (And, no, walking on the treadmill for five minutes doesn't count.) It's important to do a total-body warm up to get blood flowing to your muscles before you go hard, as it helps decrease the risk of overuse injuries and addresses underlying muscle imbalances while enhancing the quality of your movements.
Warm-ups are made up from a number of components. How much time you spend on each component depends on the type of workout you are going to do. However all components should be part in most good warm-ups…
1. Pulse raiser
Why do it: During this first step perform a light cardio activity designed to get your heart pumping, blood circulating and increase your core temperature.
How: This should be progressive in that you start easy and build up over a few minutes – for example, a walk, jog and run. This is NOT the workout so don’t do any longer than necessary or you may end up wasting valuable energy – five to ten minutes is usually plenty.
2. Joint mobility exercises
Why do i: Mobility exercises ensure your joints are warmed-up, well lubricated with synovial fluid and running smoothly.
How: You’ve done them before! It’s nothing exotic and unusual – you just don’t know you’ve done them. Examples of joint mobility exercises are shoulder shrugs, waist twists, shallow knee bends, ankle circles; Ten to twenty repetitions of four to six exercises should get the job done but feel free to spend a little more time on joints that are about to be heavily used, or are stiff or sore.
3. Dynamic stretches
Why: While slow, static stretches tend to reduce muscle power and speed, as well as balance, dynamic stretches (stretches done on the move) will actively stretch your muscles, wake them up, and get them ready for exercise.
How: Examples of dynamic stretches include lunges with a twists, squats with an overhead reach and twist, leg swings, duck under/step over, butt kickers, high-knee marching and hurdle walks. Where possible, use movements that mimic the activities of the coming workout.
4. Foam rolling (extra!)
Why: If you have especially tight or sore muscles, you may benefit from including foam rolling (properly called self myofascial release). This is a form of self-massage that can help release adhesions within your muscles and can help increase circulation to the connective tissue and muscle. You don’t need to do this. But if you have a sort tissue restriction that prevents a full range of movement, a few minutes of foam rolling might just help restore normal function. Consider foam rolling as an optional extra.
5. Movement preparation
Why: This component provides an opportunity to practice the skills and techniques you’ll be using in your workout.
How: For a weights workout, this may include some light and progressively heavier sets of the exercises you are going to perform. If you’re running you might do some running drills to improve foot speed or stride length. This is the final transition step from warming up to working out.
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