What is a warm-up?
A warm-up is a session which takes place prior to doing physical activity; usually a warm-up will consist of light cardiovascular exercises combined with stretches.
What happens in a warm-up?
Most warm-up sessions will include a combination of cardiovascular exercises, stretching and strength drills. The cardiovascular exercises are designed to increase circulation, increase body temperature and bring the heart rate up, while stretching warms the muscles and prepare them for the movements they will be required to carry out during the activity. Explosive strength exercises, which may include sprint drills or jumps, gently increase the level of intensity and prepare the body for sudden movements in the game which will follow; these exercises should only be done once the muscles are warm; this will prevent injuries.
The Importance of Warm Up Exercises
The importance of warm up exercises can be compared to driving your car in freezing cold weather. It is generally best to allow your car to warm up a bit before revving it up to high speeds. The same principle applies when you work out. You want to physically prepare your body for the demands of a strenuous workout by gradually increasing your body temperature.
Warm Up to Increase Blood Circulation
When you give your body 5 to 10 minutes of a good warm up, through walking or jogging in place for example, you gradually increase blood circulation throughout your muscles, tendons and ligaments. This is much like oiling a squeaky wheel. You give the different aspects of your physiology a chance to prepare to work together. Your heart rate increases gradually, muscles warm up to prevent injury. Your ligaments and tendons become more flexible, reducing the chance of tears.
Warm Up Exercises as a Form of Mental Preparation
Warm up exercises are also important as a form of mental preparation. Your mind can ease into the workout. This is especially helpful if you engage in strenuous forms of exercise such as hiking or cycling a steep hill, lifting heavy weights or taking an advanced aerobics class. Your body experiences a great deal of stress during these types of activities, so an adequate warm up and mental preparation increase your chances of enduring and benefiting from the hardest part of your exercise regimen.
The Difference Between Warm Up Exercises and Stretching
Although warm up exercises and stretching are often lumped together in discussions and sometimes occur simultaneously in dance and aerobics classes, they are two distinct principles. Both are important for an optimal workout. During warm up exercises, you are increasing your body temperature and slowly preparing your body for what is to come. When stretching, you are focusing specifically on stretching your muscles.
It can be problematic when people confuse warming up with stretching. One example is when a person jumps right into stretching without first raising his body temperature through an initial period of walking, running in place or easy pedaling on a bike. This can cause injury because your muscles need warmth to achieve optimal stretch. Another example is when an individual warms up but skips stretching, which can also lead to injury.
A good workout consists of a solid warm up, a period of stretching, a more strenuous portion increasing the heart rate and a cool down period, which often includes stretching. When you take the time to experience each of these workout segments, you will experience fewer occurrences of injuries and increase your workout enjoyment.
Warming up before you workout will…
1. Increase blood flow to your working muscles, better preparing them for the additional workload to come.
2. Increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, which prevents you from getting out of breath too early or too easily.
3. Prepare your heart gradually for an increase in activity, helping you avoid a rapid increase in blood pressure.
4. Prime your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise, which can improve the quality of your workout.
5. Improve coordination and reaction times.
6. Reduce the chance of soft tissue (ligament, tendon, and muscle) injuries by allowing your muscles and joints to move through a greater range of motion easily—and safely.
7. Lubricate your joints for easier (and less painful) movement.
8. Increase blood temperature, which can allow you to work out longer or harder.
9. Prompt hormonal changes in the body responsible for regulating energy production.
10. Help mentally prepare you for the workout ahead, giving you a few minutes to get “pumped up” for a great workout!
When it comes to strength training and a variety of sports, coaches often think of their warm-ups as training preparation—using techniques such as foam rolling and movement practice to get the gears aligned. Enter: the dynamic warm-up.
This popular warm-up approach gets all the joints moving one at a time, then all together, taking the body through progressive movements that loosen and stretch your muscles. Classic dynamic moves include walking lunges, toe touches, and high knees.
We perform optimally and better avoid injury after a warm-up that does what its name promises: warm us up. And while a marathoner doesn’t warm up like a power lifter (the same way an opera singer doesn’t warm up like a modern dancer), there could be some similarities.
For endurance or cardio routines, research shows a dynamic approach, including dynamic stretching—active range of motion movements that tend to be similar to what you’ll do in your workout, can improve performance. Some experts even suggest performing a few short intervals of the planned exercise at a lower intensity (for example: brisk walking before running, or body weight squats before adding weight).
As for static stretching, leave it for the cool-down. Numerous studies have shown that it can hinder performance and increase the risk of injury.
How to Warm Up
When warming up, keep the FITT Principles (Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type) in mind.
- Frequency: How often you should warm up
A proper warm up should be done before any exercise session or physical activity, whether it is a cardio, strength training workout, or stretching.
- Intensity: How intensely you should warm up
A warm-up should start with exercises of low intensity and then progress to match the intensity of the main exercises of the workout. The greater the intensity of the workout, the longer its warm-up should be. Speed, strength, and difficult technical workouts should have longer warm-ups than aerobic fitness or endurance workouts. A general recommendation is to perform a warm-up that includes all the large muscle groups of the body.For an effective warm up, perform movements that increase your heart rate and breathing, and slightly increase the temperature of your muscle tissue. A good indication of this is when you have raised a light sweat. Your warm up should be nice and easy. If it makes you too tired, try doing less strenuous warm up exercises.
- Time: How long your warm up should last
Your warm up should last at least 5-10 minutes (or slightly longer in cold weather or before high-intensity exercise). Breathing will be harder than normal, but not as hard as during the actual exercise.
- Type: What activities are suitable for warming up?
See “Examples of Warm Up Activities” above. The warm up can be a lower intensity version of the workout you are about to do, or it can be a completely different exercise. As long as it increases your heart rate and breathing, and involves the muscles you are about to use, it is considered a proper warm up.
The 5-Minute Warm-Up You Need Before Any Workout
A decent warm-up will improve your range of motion in the joints that need to move. It also enhances the stability of those that don’t, reducing your risk of injury. A good warm-up jump starts your central nervous system, priming your muscles to play sports and to handle more weight so you can accomplish more in less time. And a great warm-up can do all that in just 5 minutes. Let’s start it.
Jump Rope: 30 seconds
Start with a regular two-footed jump, and as you get warm you can play around with other jump styles. (Here are some jump rope moves from Copeland that keep your feet guessing.)
Alternating Knee Hugs: 30 seconds
Stand with feet hip-width apart and pull one knee into chest. Keep shoulders back and core tight. Repeat, alternating sides. After a few repetitions on each side, repeat the motion but come onto the ball of the standing leg.
Alternating Hamstring Stretch: 30 seconds
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Extend one leg straight in front, foot flexed and heel resting on the floor. Bend down to stretch hamstrings while sweeping arms down by outstretched foot and up over head. Repeat alternating sides. (You can do these in place, or while walking, if you have enough room.)
Walk-Out Planks: 45 seconds
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend down to put palms on the floor, and walk hands forward until reaching a high plank position. Then walk hands back towards feet and return to standing. Repeat.
Inner Thigh Stretch: 30 seconds
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend the right knee, shift weight to the right, and place hands on right knee to stretch inner thigh muscles in left leg. Switch sides; repeat.
Butt Kicks: 30 seconds
High Knees: 30 seconds
- Stand up straight and place your feet about hip-width apart.
- Place your hands palms down facing the floor, hovering just above your belly button.
- Quickly drive your right knee up to meet your right hand, bring the same leg back to the ground immediately bring the left knee coming up to meet your left hand.
Effects of the warm-up
The warm-up should gently prepare the body for exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation; this will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. Stretching the muscles prepares them for physical activity and prevents injuries. The warm-up is also a good opportunity for an individual to prepare themselves mentally for the game ahead and for a team to work together prior to the start of the game. Warm-ups can also be used to practice skills and team drills.
How long should a warm up last?
Most warm up sessions last between 20 minutes and half an hour; this given the body plenty of time to gradually get ready for physical activity and gives the player time to prepare themselves mentally.
The most important reason for doing a warm up is to prevent injury during exercise; keeping the muscles warm will prevent acute injuries such as hamstring strains and will stave off overuse injuries by allowing the body to prepare steadily and safely. In more static sports, such as cricket, it is a good idea to stretch throughout the game as this will keep the muscles warm and allow them to function effectively; substitutes should also continue to run and stretch while they are waiting to join a game; this is commonly seen in football matches where the substitutes jog, jump and stretch along the sidelines.
Your Action Plan for warm-up
Every warm-up will be different, depending on your fitness level and the goal of your workout. But as a jumping off point, start with these four basic goals for every warm-up, as outlined by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
1. Loosen up
Warm your joints, muscles, and prep your body for exercise with mobility movements. If you’ve got one, now is also a great time for foam rolling. Start by rolling your back, then hit every section of the legs, glutes, and hip flexors.
2. Get your heart pumping.
Increased heart thumping warms up your muscles and switches on your nervous system. Jog, slowly row, or ride a bike on low resistance. Just be sure you’re able to converse with your workout buddy (or sing along to your Spotify playlist).
3. Do some dynamic stretchings
Stretch your warm muscles, but don’t hold it. Remember: Static stretching during a warm-up can actually hinder your performance. Instead, do dynamic stretching, which involves continuously moving through a range of motion. For instance, you can make big arm circles in both directions, kick your legs forward, or simply touch your toes and then reach for the sky. The key is to not hold in any position.
Move through the exercises planned for that day’s workout at a lower intensity. Have a long, hard run ahead? Warm up with a few technique drills. Back squats? Start with body weight squats or by holding an empty bar. Practicing the movement patterns teaches muscle memory (a.k.a. neuromuscular adaptation) and continues to prepare your body for action.
There’s no limit to the variety of warm-up moves that can get you game-ready, and changing things up is always a fun (and often effective) approach. Find an enjoyable warm-up and remember to listen to your body’s cues. Your warm-up should not fatigue you. After all, it’s only one aspect of the workout. And don’t forget to cool down at the end.
How to Do a Proper Cool down
- After you finish your run, cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5 to 10 minutes. Your breathing and heart rate should gradually return to normal.
- Drink water or sports drink to replenish yourself.
- Now is a good time to stretch since your muscles are warmed-up. Stretching is easier when your body is still warm after your cool down.
Stretching Tips for After Your Run
Essential post-run stretches include the hamstring stretch, quad stretch, calf stretch, low lunge stretch, IT band stretch, butterfly stretch, hip and back stretch, arms and abs stretch, and triceps stretch. Use these tips for proper stretching:
- Don’t bounce while stretching. Hold still on each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Don’t stretch through pain. Don’t stretch beyond the point where you begin to feel tightness in the muscle. You shouldn’t push through muscle resistance and never stretch to the point of pain. As you feel less tension, you can increase the stretch a bit more until you feel the same slight pull.
- Make sure you stretch both sides. Don’t just stretch your left calf because you feel tightness on that side. Make sure you’re stretching both sides equally.
- Don’t hold your breath. Stay relaxed and breathe in and out slowly. Make sure you don’t hold your breath. Take deep belly breaths.