Warming up before a workout

Whether you are a seasoned athlete or brand new to exercising, one thing is imperative….and that is getting a good warmup before your movement begins. Think of it this way: if you could spend a few minutes at the beginning of every workout to move, stretch, and get your blood flowing before your exercise in order to help prevent an injury and improve performance, would you do it? Most of us would answer, yes.

Benefits of Warming Up Before Exercise

Aside from injury prevention (due to increased elasticity within the muscles and improved range of motion within the joints), warming up before exercise has a multitude of benefits; these include effects like:

  • Increased blood flow
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Improved metabolic rate
  • Production of quick and forceful contractions of the muscles
  • Increased core temperature which leads to improved caloric burn
  • Mental preparedness that you need for the exercise to come

Different Types of Warmups

If you are at your local fitness center or school gymnasium, you might see different types of warmups being done, but which one is right for you? If you are preparing to do an exercise such as running, lifting, or biking, then you want to lean towards a dynamic workout, which preps your body to do more intense movements. Dynamic workouts are ones that essentially mimic the movement that you’re planning on doing (and incorporates exercises like squats, lunges, leg swings, and inchworms).

Likewise, you might see people warming up by doing some movements based on flexibility. This is called static stretching, and stretches are held anywhere from 30-60 seconds or more. This type of movement can also increase range of motion, but should typically be saved for the end of your workout, as part of your cooldown. This will allow the muscles to lengthen, and will help improve mobility once the muscles are warm.

How to Warmup Before A Workout

You might be eager to start your workout, and that’s definitely reasonable, especially since so many people are strapped for time nowadays. With hectic schedules and short timeframes to workout, it’s easy to see how the warmup portion can be put on the backburner. However, jumping right into a workout can be detrimental to your health, your goals, and your overall workout routine. Also, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, even 5-10 minutes can kickstart your body into being prepared for movement.

Let’s look at some of the ways that you can warmup before your workout in a safe and productive way.

  1. Make sure the warmup you are doing is suited for the exercise that you want to perform in your workout. For example, if you plan on going for a run, then incorporate movement like a fast walk, walking lunges, and high knees to get prepared. If you’re doing an exercise class like CrossFit, then your warmup should include total body movements like scapular retractions, squats, light jogs, and practicing your lifts with a PVC or light barbell. Likewise, if you’re doing yoga, then movements like glute bridges, shoulder rolls, and planks can help get you primed for movement. For more dynamic exercises, check out the National Academy of Sports Medicine (they also have feedback on static stretching before a warmup).
  2. Focus on what you’re doing. Plenty of research inside the world of sports and the associated psychology that goes along with it shows us that picturing how you are going to perform in your workout (whether through your Olympic lifts, your running pace, or your handstands) can help improve your overall performance. Take the time during your warmup to pay attention to your movement and your body, and have your warmup movements be just as strong and on point as your actual workout.
  3. Save bouncing movements for the end of your warmup (i.e. jumping, kicking, etc.). Granted, these ballistic exercises definitely have their place in a warmup; however, they should be saved for the end (since there is a lot of force and contraction with the movements).

Warmup Exercise Examples

Depending on the type of workout that you are going to do, there is a whole array of exercises that you can incorporate into your routine in order to get the blood flowing and prepare for movement. Check out some great examples from the American Council on Exercise here to add into your warmup program.

When it comes down to it, a warmup is something that can easily be overlooked. However, getting your body prepped and ready for exercise will not only help decrease your injury risk, but it will help improve your performance too. Remember, even 5 to 10 minutes is beneficial. So be sure to reserve some time to warmup the next time you workout.

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Hannah Daugherty, CPT-NASM, ACE