Have you ever been tempted to skip past doing a warm-up? Maybe because of time constraints, you want to get straight into the workout, or you just don’t see any need to? Well the concept of a warm-up was created because it provides a range of physiological and psychological benefits that will not only help you to get the most out of your exercise activity, but also prevent risk of injury that could otherwise occur.
So what is a warm-up?
A warm-up is a preliminary phase to performing exercise, which prepares your body and mind for physical exertion. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), it can be thought of as an on-ramp – giving your vehicle time to reach the speed of the motorway.
And what are the benefits of an effective warm-up?
- Increases core temperature: This activates enzymes and hormones used for metabolic processes such as energy production, allowing fatty acids and carbohydrates to be more readily used (i.e. burns more Calories). It also weakens the binding ability of oxygen to haemoglobin, making oxygen more readily available for your working muscles.
- Gradually increases heart rate and blood pressure: This increases the flow of oxygen in the blood to the working muscles, enabling oxygen to be supplied closer to the rate it is used at. In turn, build-up of lactic acid (the burning sensation you get when exercising) is reduced, which promotes sustained performance.
- Gradual increase in breathing rate: Effectively speeds up the intake of oxygen into our bloodstream, to meet the increased demand by our working muscles.
- Increases muscle temperature: Warm muscles are able to contract with more force and relax faster. This enhances speed and strength, while reducing risk of overstretching or injury.
- Helps you to avoid overheating: Performing light physical activity early on activates the heat-dissipation mechanisms which cool your body, preventing overheating as you progress through the actual workout.
- Increases release of synovial fluid: This helps lubricate joints to minimise joint discomfort, pain or injury.
- Increases intra/inter-muscular coordination: Warm-ups stimulate the central nervous system, allowing our brain, nerves and muscles to communicate more effectively.
- Mental preparation: When warming up, you help focus your mind on the upcoming physical activity, and allow time to develop a plan of how you will proceed through your workout.
Top tips when warming up:
- Keep it between 5-10 minutes: You don’t want to tire yourself out before your actual workout.
- Perform light, full-body, cardiovascular activity: You should have a light sweat, feel a slight effort in your muscles, and be able to keep going for a while g. walking, cycling, skipping.
- Then perform exercises that specifically prepare your body for your upcoming workout: This puts your joints and muscles through the same range of motion they will go through in the workout. It also reduces the gap between the level of intensity that your body has to adjust to. For example, if your workout includes push ups, then perform a few reps of knee push ups to warm-up.
- Perform active stretching: These are stretches which continuously move the joints through their normal, functional range of motion. This prevents stretching cold muscles in one position, to avoid risk of pulls or tears. An example is when stretching your hamstrings: rather than leaning over to touch your toes and holding, sweep your hands down past your feet and continue this motion.
- Focus and visualise success: A positive mental attitude can greatly improve your performance.
Knowing what we now know, it’s important to make sure you always warm-up before getting into your workout. It safely progresses you to higher intensity exercises, and helps you get more bang for your buck because you can perform for longer with greater results!
DID YOU KNOW?
Ballistic stretching is highly recommended when warming up for dynamic activities that involve ballistic actions such as sports, gymnastics, dance or martial arts. This is a type of active stretching which involves using momentum to ‘bounce’ the stretch at the end of the motion. It pushes your joints and muscles beyond their typical limits to increase range of motion and flexibility, hence improving functional capability to enable you to perform at your best!
This type of stretching is not advised for those who are new to stretching or have joint pains.