Why You Should Never Skip Your Warm-Up
A warm-up before exercise is crucial for injury prevention and for increased performance. Jumping straight into a workout without first warming up your muscles means you’re much more likely to injure yourself. You’re also less likely to get the most out of your workout.
Unfortunately, many people skip the warm-up as they’re short on time and don’t think they derive many benefits from it. This is false! At Beckwith Health Club, we want to do everything possible to help you to avoid injury and enjoy a healthy workout. This article lays out the benefits of a good warm-up and walks you through some common techniques.
Warming Up Helps Prevent Injury
Warm-up exercises are usually a blend of stretches and cardiovascular exercises. These are aimed at gradually increasing your blood circulation and bringing your heart rate up. As blood circulation in your body increases, your muscles and joints are warmed up, helped by the stretches.
While studies have not yet agreed upon a specific length of warm-up that is more effective in preventing injury during exercise, they all agree that warming up has a significant impact on risks from exercise.
This is because of many reasons: for one thing, jumping straight into exercise without warming up can be harmful to your heart. As you haven’t warmed up, your heart starts working harder to pump blood & oxygen around your body to supplement your muscles, without itself having enough supply to do so. This can be quite dangerous, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition.
Conversely, easing into exercise gradually increases the blood supply to your heart, thereby easing you into the workout. Few people are aware of these risks to their heart from not warming up. It’s all very well wanting to improve your health by exercising, but you do not want to be unknowingly causing more damage to your body by rushing the process.
Avoiding a warm-up can also drastically increase the likelihood of sustaining muscle damage. While it is still possible to tear a muscle, for example, during exercise despite having warmed up, it is significantly less likely.
If your muscles are warm, they are more resistant to tears and strains. This is especially important when doing cardiovascular exercises, such as long-distance running, where the muscles are working hard for a long time and need to stay warm. This is why you will always see substitutes in football matches running and jumping in the sidelines.
Moreover, when doing strength training, the resistance being applied to the muscles can cause them to wear out or tear if they weren’t prepared for the exercise.
Warming-Up Guarantees Better Performance
Warming-up prevents injury but also guarantees better performance during your exercise. As your muscles are warmed up and ready to go when you start your workout, they’ll be in peak condition to get the most out of the exercise.
As the warm-up increases blood flow to your muscles, it also increases their temperature. Because of this increase in temperature, the hemoglobin in your blood releases more oxygen and at a higher rate. What does this mean? That more blood and oxygen is going to your muscles, thereby allowing them to work better, harder, and more efficiently. This increases your overall performance and helps with quick recovery.
To illustrate this point: have you ever gone for a morning run and skipped the warm-up, going straight from bed to the run? If so, this is unlikely to have been your best performance. Undoubtedly, your muscles would have felt heavy, making you work harder to get them working. This is avoidable with a quick warm up!
As warming up also increases your performance, it can act as a pre-workout mental boost, as well. You know that you will be getting much more out of your workout, so you will feel better about it.
How Long Should I Warm-Up for?
Again, the jury’s out on this one. It often depends on the type of exercise you will be doing, how long you will be doing it for, and on your health. If you would like specialized advice, please ask our Beckwith gym staff to help you.
Generally speaking, a five to fifteen-minute warm up will be suitable for most people and for most activities. Remember: you cannot warm up too much, but you can warm up too little.
A ten-minute warm-up may not seem like a lot, but many people will choose to skip it as they’re in a hurry or don’t see the benefits in it. This is a risky strategy: rather a ten-minute warm up than several months of physical therapy!
What Should I Do in My Warm-Up?
You can make your warm-up whatever you would like it to be, but fundamentally it should be made up of stretches and light cardiovascular activity. Some common warm-up exercises and their descriptions are listed below to give you a hand in getting on the correct warm up path.
Basic Warm Up: Waking Up Your Muscles
Shoulder rolls. Roll your shoulder forwards 5 times, and backwards five times. Let your arms hang by your sides.
Neck rolls. Gently roll your neck from your chest to your back, and from side to side.
Heel Digs. Stand on the spot and place one foot in front, bend forward, and alternate. Do ten stretches for each leg.
Marching on the spot & knee lifts. Start marching energetically on the spot. Use your arms and make your knees go high, up to your waist if you can. Keep a rhythm and do this for 30 seconds to a minute.
Kick Backs. Kick your legs back one at a time, up to your lower back if you can. Do this energetically, ten reps each side.
Dynamic Warm Up: Raise Your Heart Rate
Forward lunge. Stretch your hip flexors and activate your legs with forward lunges. Do ten reps for each leg.
High kicks. Warm up your hamstrings by kicking one leg, and then the other, forward as high as you can. You can do this warm-up walking or stationary. Do ten for each leg.
Do two reps of ten squats, keeping your back straight, your chest up, and bending down as far as you can go. For a more advanced warm up, do jump squats.
If you don’t feel warmed up enough to start your workout, continue warming up. It’s very important to listen to your body when exercising: if something feels tight or painful, then stop.
Regular exercise is so important for a healthy lifestyle, but it’s essential that you do it correctly to avoid injury and to boost your performance. If you have any doubts about your warm-up or questions, please feel free to ask any of our excellent Beckwith gym staff.