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Jul 22, 2012

Why you should always make time for a warm up...

Everyone is guilty of skipping their pre exercise warm up routine... especially when time is a factor. I can safely say for me that’s several times a week!

Coaches, trainers, teachers all tell us to warm up and stretch before exercise but do any of us really know why warming up is so important?

Warming up is preparing your body for activity, gradually raising your heart rate and increasing blood flow to the muscles. Warm up generally involves a low impact exercise such as walking or jogging that is completed before stretching and strenuous vigorous exercise.

Many people assume that when advised to warm up this means stretch, however this is not entirely correct. The stretching component is only effective if completed when the muscles are already warm. There are no benefits to be gained from stretching a cold muscle.

Pre exercise stretching should be done dynamically, meaning actively moving muscles through their available range as opposed to the static stretching that you may complete at the end of the workout.

When warming up for a specific sport, some movements with in the warm up should involve those muscles or body parts that will be used in the sport. For example rugby warm up includes agility drills, speed work, ball work as well as a contact warm up with pads to prepare the body for tackling.

By increasing blood flow to muscles you are raising both the body and deep muscle temperatures, this allows for improved muscle efficiency, quicker reaction times and improved muscle flexibility. A warm up has also been shown to improve oxygen delivery to muscles and assist with flushing unwanted waste products out of the muscles.  A small amount of evidence also suggests that an adequate warm up can also prevent post exercise soreness.

Warm up not only prepares our body physically but also assists with mental preparation and helps your mind ease into your workout. Your body goes through a great deal of stress during strenuous activity, warming up the mind increases your chances of winning the mental battle during the hardest parts of your exercise routine.

What would my typical warm up be?

When I make time for my warm up it typically consists of hopping on the exercise bike or cross trainer, with minimal resistance and at a comfortable speed for around 5 minutes. By then my heart rate is elevated and I’m just beginning to sweat. I then spend a further 5 minutes dynamically warming up key muscle groups; hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, calves and lower back. Some good exercises are walking lunges, side and front hip swings, star jumps and lumbar rotations.

Next time you hit the gym, make time for a warm up. You will get more out of your workout because your muscles and your mind know what’s coming!

Categories General Issues Tags warm up exercise stretching injury prevention