By: Julie Blessing
It is very important to perform a proper warm up before any type of physical activity. The purpose of a warm up is to prevent injury by increasing the body’s core and muscle temperature. Warm muscles increase the rate of energy production which increases reflexes and lowers the time it takes to contract a muscle. A good warm up should also increase range of motion and mentally prepare you for exercise. Warm ups should be specific to the type of exercise you are doing, but should be a full body warm up even if you only plan to workout a few muscle groups. For example, if you are planning to do a leg workout you should do a warm up with mostly lower body exercises, but also include a few upper body/full body exercises as well.
A warm up should include multiple dynamic exercises increasing in intensity as you get closer to the workout. Dynamic exercises provide a stretch through full range of motion, but the stretch is not held in the ending position. Static stretches or stretches that are held in the ending position are not ideal for a warm up, due to the stop of blood flow to the muscle. Static stretches should be performed after a workout as part of a cool down. They are great for increasing flexibility, but are not supportive to the meaning of a warm up.
A warm up should begin with gentle exercise that will increase your body’s core and muscle temperature and progress to dynamic stretches that will increase your end range of motion. Throughout a warm up your heart rate should also be increasingly elevating to prepare you for exercise. For example, start with walking for a few minutes and then progress to a jog. After a few minutes of jogging your heart rate should be elevated and muscle temperature rising. Then begin your dynamic stretches, such as knee hugs, frankensteins, walking quad stretches, or lunge and twist. After dynamic stretches your muscles should be moving freely through your full range, and that is when it is time to increase the intensity. This is when you can add in some faster dynamic movements or more multi body part exercises, such as high knees, butt kickers, and even side shuffles or sprints.