If I want to hear a client groan, all I need to do is ask them to spend 10-15 minutes properly warming up. Yet, if I ask them to add 10-15 minutes to the weight lifting component of their training session, they’re usually more than happy to do so.
We all know we should do it, but when it comes to exercise, the first thing to often go when it comes to our workouts is the warm-up.
We’re either too tired, can’t be bothered, don’t think it’s ‘that important’.
The truth however, is that no matter how much we want to avoid it, a proper warm-up (of even 15 minutes) can be extremely beneficial for your training, decreasing the risk of injury whilst training and improving your overall health.
So what does a ‘proper’ warm-up look like?
Step 1: Light Aerobic Activity
One of the best ways to gently increase your blood flow is through light aerobic activity.
Light aerobic activities include:
- Riding a stationary bicycle
- Walking on a treadmill (inclined)
- Striding on an elliptical
- Rowing on a rower
What you’re looking for here is to feel a slow raise in your heart rate, and work up to your feel a light sweat, often on your forehead.
By engaging in 5-10 minutes of aerobic activity, you increase in your cardiovascular output, raising your core body temperature and increasing the blood flow in the muscles. This not only improves muscle performance during your workout, but flexibility, therefore reducing the likelihood of injury.
Step 2: Foam Rolling / Soft Tissue Therapy
Often overlooked due to a belief it’s time consuming, foam rolling and other soft tissue therapy tools such as massage balls and sticks can be extremely beneficial to releasing stiffness in necessary muscles.
By focusing 2-5 your time on the areas of the body you feel stiffest, rather than trying to foam roll the entire body, you can reap the many benefits.
Soft Tissue Therapy can help improve blood flow to specific areas of the body so that they become more mobile.
- Increased blood flow and circulation
- Better movement and increased range of motion
- Decrease the chance of injury
- Decrease recovery time after a workout
- Muscular relaxation and reduction in cramps
- Removal of metabolic waste products such as lactic acid
Step 3: Dynamic Stretching
The most commonly overlooked part of a warm-up, yet what can be argued to be one of the most significant, is dynamic stretching. Whilst many people’s go-to when they think of stretching is the static stretch, the benefits of dynamic stretching should not be overlooked.
Benefits of dynamic stretching include:
- Increases the core temperature
- Increases heart rate and blood flow to skeletal tissues
- Increase the activation of the Central Nervous System – improved coordination, accuracy and reaction time
- Increases the rate and force of muscle contraction and contractile mechanical efficiency
- Increases the suppleness of connective tissue -decreasing the likelihood of injury
- Maintains warmth in your body and muscles
- Prepares the muscles and joints in a more sport specific manner
- Prepares the mind for the workout ahead.
Taking 5-15 minutes, depending on the specificity of muscles about to be trained and level of training about to be performed. You should do as many sets as it takes to reach your maximum range of motion in any given direction, however, it’s important to ensure you avoid pushing to the point of muscular fatigue.
Dynamic stretches can include:
- High Knees – Focus on form
- Butt Kicks – Stay on your toes
- Side Shuffles – Staying low
- Carioca – Focus on hip rotation
- Ankle Pops – Knees slightly bent
- Glute Walk – Hugging the knee to the chest
- Kicking Toe Touches – Keep balance
- Quad Walk – Full stretch to bum
- Over the Fence Aka. Open/Close The Gates – Rotating inwards and outwards
- Scorpion (Front and Back) – Reaching as far back and over as possible
- Inchworms – Keep the legs as straight as possible
- Arm Hugs – Open wide and swap the top arm when hugging
So there you have it, whether you’re looking to build strength, shape muscle, or boost your lifting endurance, the above warm-up process can not only improve your overall health, but decrease your risk of injury and therefore time off from training, improve your lifting and therefore results in the weights room, and help keep you mobile in approximately 15 minutes.