Warming up is so important in preparing the body for the demands of physical activity. I know a lot of people skip warm-ups and I do sometimes too, but it’s never a good idea! Warms up should be dynamic and specific, mimicking the movements to come. Warms up should start with simple movements and progess into more complex movements involving larger muscle groups.
Often people are unsure of what exactly a proper warm-up entails and just end up walking or cycling for 5 minutes. Of course this will increase blood circulation and increase your heart rate, but it isn’t specific or dynamic. A dynamic warm-up can help increase range of motion, enhance muslce compliance (ensuring muscles will be compliant to the movement demands before intensity is increased), and help protect the body from injury.
So what are the physical and psychological benifits of a dynamic warm-up?
- Activation of the central nervous system for balance and body awareness
- Increase muscle tissue temperature
- Increase muscle fibre length
- Increase blood and nutrient flow to the joints and muslces
- Execute training-specific motor programs
- Prevent early fatigue and lactic-acid build up
- Mental activation
- Increase aggression
- Increase alertness
- Increase focus on training
- Reduce stress
Dynamic warm-up movements should focus on moving large muscle groups with slow and basic moves and progess towards faster, multi-directional movements. All muscles and joints from the ankles to the shoulders should be included. The best warm-up for any activity is to begin with sport-specific movements at a low level and gradually increase intensity to the level of your training sessions. Passive stretching shouldn’t be a part of your warm-up and can actually be detrimental to performance, you can include passive stretching in your cool-down or as part of flexibility training.
Dynamic warm-ups should begin slow and focused, the object is to focus on the quality of each movement rather than being the first one done. Try to perfect repetition after repetition. The progression from basic to advance should stimulate each joint and muscle group and progess with the following pattern:
- Linear movement
- Angled movement
- Lateral movement
- Crossover patterns
- Multiple direction change
- An increase in tempo
Warm-up exercises can include high knee walking and skipping, lateral shuffles, carioca drills, and multi-directional lunges. Start slow, always take all your joints through their full range of motion, be creative and have fun with warm-ups. A good warm-up should take 10-15 minutes, and you should be sweating by the end!
Today I did this simple warm-up at the gym before beginning my strength training workout. By the time I finished this quick warm-up I was sweating and ready to go! There are many other excellent warm-up exercises you can include in your training, this is just one example. This warm-up isn’t particularly sport specific but it certainly warmed me up from head to toe and prepared my muscles and joints for the work to come.
20 x Hip Swings/Leg – See Video
20 x Walking Toe Touch/Leg – See Video
20 x Arm Swings/Arm – 10 Forward/10 Backward
100 x High Knees
90 x Jumping Jacks
80 x Side-to-Side Hops – See Video
70 x High Knees
60 x Jumping Jacks
50 x Lateral Hops on Bench – See Video
40 x Walking Lunges with Twist – See Video
30 x Mountain Climbers
20 x Split Lunge Jump
10 x Burpees
Walking Toe Touch
Lateral Hops on Bench
Walking Lunge with Twist
Next time you’re at the gym, or heading out for a run, consider the upcoming demands and mimick those in your warm-up. A proper warm-up will help you train harder and safer and mentally prepare you for all that hard work!