Warm-ups are an essential part of every type of workout. Typically those in fitness classes, working with a personal trainer or in a gym include them at the start of every session. However, a high number of amateur sports enthusiasts fail to fully incorporate this essential ritual before they pedal up the path, hit a ball with a racket or swing a golf club.
Failing to warm-up can bring all kinds of complications for the body, reduce your performance in your given sport on the day, and also restrict the rate at which you improve.
Benefits of warm-ups
1. Body Temperature Rises
It’s not called a warm-up for nothing. Moving the body creates heat which travels to the muscles making them more malleable, so they contract and relax with greater ease. This is great for building strength and speed. Warm muscles are also less prone to overstretching and tearing too, meaning there’s a reduced risk of injury.
2. Blood Flow Improves
That healthy red glow you get when you warm up is a sign that the blood is warmer, flowing faster and delivering more oxygen around the body. As a result, more oxygen is made available to the muscles, which improves endurance and enables the aerobic type of exercise to begin which uses your medium-long term energy reserves.
The blood vessels also dilate lowering stress on the heart and preparing it for the demands of the workout that follows.
3. Joints Move More and Wear Less
The initial movements of the warm-up bring warmth and synovial fluid to the joints. The warmth enables a fuller range of motion while the fluid lubricates the joints while in motion enabling greater range and ease of motion.
4. The Body’s Cooling System is Switched On
As you warm-up, the body switches on its cooling system and builds the production of sweat gradually in accordance with the rise in body temperature. This carries on as you exercise, enabling you to regulate your body temperature and avoid overheating.
5. The Mind Becomes Focused
A 5-10 minute warm-up acts as a great divide between your previous activity and the exercise ahead. It’s a great time to think about what you want to achieve whatever you’re doing and visualise yourself doing it, as all great sportspeople do.
How to Warm-Up?
To warm-up the body properly you need to take it through a variety of exercises and movements that will collectively raise the heart rate and move every muscle and joint. To be properly warmed up you should devote at least five and preferably ten minutes to the process.
Ideally you should warm-up only using your body weight for resistance and beginning with small controlled movements, building the intensity gradually as you go.
Here’s a simple warm-up that will work for all kinds of exercise:
- March on the spot with feet under your hips and your arms swinging below heart level
- March wide at a faster speed and start to bring your hands to the side at shoulder level
- Gently jog with your feet narrow and bring your hands up and down over your head
- Squat with your feet under your hips and your hands on your shoulders
- Hold a low squat position and circle your elbows around in both directions with your hands still on your shoulders
- Bring alternate knees up and down diagonally touching them with your opposite hand when they’re raised and extending your arm opposite to the moving leg above your head when your foot is grounded
- Rest your hands on your butt, palms out, and kick your hands with your heels
Devote 30 seconds – two minutes to each section and if you have time repeat the cycle a second time with more speed and effort.
Finally, check the body is warm top to toe and you’re at least a little breathless to consider yourself warmed-up and ready to go.