What kind of warmup do you do before your workout? You DO warm-up, don’t you?!
Don’t worry, I’m guilty of not bothering to warm-up, too. That being said, as a fitness coach, I try to practice what I preach and a warm-up IS a good idea. However, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy. I know we’re all time-crunched and don’t want to waste the precious minutes we’re able to carve out of our day for a workout with a warm-up. But, here’s why its a good idea…
It gradually increases blood flow to the muscles and increases muscle temperature which in turn increases the oxygen available to the working muscles. This keeps the more intense exercise to come from being a shock to your system.
There is some evidence to suggest that a warm-up will help prevent injuries. As with many subjects, there is no definitive answer on this and there are people and studies on both sides.
A warm-up can help you mentally prepare for the workout or event to come. Especially if its going to be a tough one.
So what should your warm-up look like?
Forget everything you learned about warm-ups from your middle school phys. ed. teacher or your high school coach (unless they were very progressive and in-the-know :). Jogging for 30 minutes or more, bending over to touch your toes or contorting your body into odd stretches is not the best way to warm-up.
A dynamic warm-up is best. One in which you are moving at a low intensity ideally in the same types of motions as the workout. For example, if you’re going for a run, then the warm-up should be an easy run of just a few minutes. Your total warm-up only needs to be 10-15 minutes long, if that. You can, and should, incorporate other dynamic movements to loosen up your joints and gently stretch your muscles. Static stretching (sitting or standing and holding a stretch without moving) has been shown to not be a very effective warm-up.
The following are a few dynamic warm-up activities you can do. Just 30 seconds or so for each.
Bounding – This is basically exaggerated running. Leap from foot to foot with a long stride for about 10 meters or so.
High skipping – Again, an exaggerated exercise. Skip for about 10 meters, pushing off with force to go as high as you can.
High knees – Run, moving forward with small steps and bringing your knees up high so your thighs are about parallel to the ground.
Butt kicks – Run with small steps and bringing your heels to your butt. Try to maintain normal arm swing during this motion.
Hip swings – Stand with feet hip width apart. Hold onto something for balance if necessary. Swing your right leg forward and backward from your hip 5-10 times and switch legs.
Trunk twists – Stand with feet hip width apart and hands on hips. Twist your upper body from side to side to loosen up your low back.
Arm circles – Holding your arms at shoulder height, move them in wide circles to loosen and warm-up the shoulders.
Jumping jacks – This is a great full-body warm-up activity Everyone can do them and they can modified if necessary and don’t take a lot of space.
Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite warm-up activity I haven’t included.