The warm-up should be the first thing you do when stepping into the gym, getting ready for a run or playing a pick up game of basketball at the local park. By taking 10 to 15 minutes to simply warm up prior to exercise, you will be able to perform better and reduce the likelihood of injury.
These blood-pumping strategies will help you have your best sweat yet.
Forget Static Stretching
Think back to middle school P.E. class. Remember how the gym teacher would make everyone complete a series of stretches before you could go play kickball?
While touching your toes and other types of static stretches are great for increasing an individual's range of motion, it is not ideal for prepping the body for physical activity and should be completed either as a cool down post-workout or during the day as its own activity.
Wondering what you should do instead?
Research shows that by incorporating a dynamic warm-up into your pre-workout routine, you are able to work out harder, feel better and reduce your likelihood of injury.
By warming up, we are telling our bodies, "Ok, it's time to get moving," which helps our muscles and cardiovascular system prepare for high levels of effort.
How to Warm Up
You always want to start the warm-up slowly with a few in-place, dynamic movements (i.e. knee hugs) and gradually move towards a higher-effort movement at the end of the warm-up (i.e. high knees for 10 yards).
To ensure a successful warm-up, do these three things:
- Elevate Your Heart Rate: By starting out slow, you are giving your body the chance to gradually raise your heart rate over the 10 to 15-minute time period prior to exercise.
- Increase Blood Flow: During exercise, blood carries oxygen to the working muscles while also transferring byproducts away. With your warm-up, you are turning on some of these shuttle systems before you really stress them during the workout
- Use Similar Movements: The primary goal of the warm-up is to prep the body for the activity you are planning to do. Therefore, include movements that closely resemble your workout for the day. This may include knee hugs, hip hugs and leg kicks if you are planning on doing squats in the workout.
As long as you meet those three goals during your warm-up, your body will be ready for the training session. Remember to start out slow and gradually pick up the pace until your heart rate has elevated slightly, your blood flow has increased and your limbs are loose.
Now you're ready for an incredible workout.