What Should A Warm Up Include?

So you’re wanting to squeeze in a workout before work, or before dinner plans in the evening? To cut down time, you might be tempted to skip your warmup and jump straight into your workout. Do you know what our Exercise Physiologist, Mitch, says to this?… “big no-no.”

Not allowing your body the correct preparation for exercise can increase your risk of injury. It also places your body under unnecessary strain and stress. No matter what type of exercise you’re doing, whether it’s cardio, strength or sport, it’s important to ease your muscles into exercise mode.

Warming up before exercise is crucial to any sports performance and general fitness activities. Its importance should not be underestimated or looked past. Stay on board as Mitch takes us on a deep dive into the world of the warm-up. Including what one should consist of, and he even takes us through exercises that we can include in our own pre-workout routine.

What Is A Warmup?

A warm-up is an activity that helps prepare the body for the demands of sport or any type of physical activity. Your body makes numerous adjustments during the warm-up period to prep for intense activity. Some of these adjustments include: 

  • Increasing breathing rate
  • Increasing heart rate
  • Increasing the energy-releasing reaction in the muscles – this makes muscles more supple
  • Prepares muscles for stretching 
  • Increasing blood flow through the body – enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles 
  • Prime nerve-to-muscle pathways ready for exercise 

The practice of warming up encourages these adjustments to occur gradually. They don’t happen right away and need time to reach the necessary levels. Starting strenuous exercise without warming up means your body hasn’t yet prepared for higher levels of demand and stress. This can increase your chance of injury and unnecessary fatigue. 

Ideally, you want to be warming up until you reach a light sweat, this indicates that your heart and breathing rate has increased as well as the process of warming up and loosening your muscles. Generally, you should be setting aside 5 – 10 minutes for a warm-up. In colder weather, you should slightly increase this to about 10 – 15 minutes. If you’re exercising at a higher level than for general fitness, such as competitive or elite sport, then your warm-up may need to be longer again and one that is designed specifically for your sport. 

Taking the time to warm up helps your mental state just as it does your physical. Your brain directs its focus to your body as you go through the warm-up process. This focus flows through into your training session, helping improve technique, coordination and skill.

Warmup Checklist

There is so much information online that it can sometimes be overwhelming to pin down what is relevant and what is not. Mitch has made our lives easier. He has broken down the warm-up into a checklist; so you can make sure yours is going to be as effective as possible. 

Soft Tissue Preparation / Manipulation

This is a type of muscle massage which helps restore the full function and length of a muscle. It’s beneficial for: 

  • Improving mobility by releasing trigger points or ‘knots’
  • Increasing blood flow 
  • Helping loosen adhesions within connective tissue 
  • Stimulating the nervous system to relax muscles to they perform more effectively during physical activity

Choose a muscle group, for example, your quadriceps (the group of four muscles in the front of the thigh) and lie with your body weight on a foam roller or hardball, such as a tennis ball. Slowly move over the foam roller or ball to massage the entire length of the chosen muscle group.

Low-Intensity Cardio

A few minutes of skip rope, cycling on the bike, brisk walking or a slow jog will help increase your heart rate. This will rev up your cardiovascular system to prepare for high-intensity activity. This part of your warm-up should be a lower intensity equivalent to the exercise you’re about to perform.

Hip Activation Work

Biomechanically essential to all locomotion and travelling movements, the hips play a vital role in body performance. They dictate the body’s centre of gravity and are the supporting foundation for the spine and upper body. Activation exercises help by working to strengthen the neuromuscular connections to optimise movement and biomechanics.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a type of movement performed during warm-up that allows the joints and muscles to go through their full range of motion before exercising. Generally, dynamic stretches are functional, practical and mimic movements of the activity you’re about to perform. As an example, dynamic stretching for a swimmer may include moving their arms in a circular motion, this prepares their muscles and joints for similar movements patterns that they perform during their swimming strokes. It ultimately allows your body to practice your activity in a lower intensity version. 

Dynamic stretching movements can help improve strength, mobility, flexibility and coordination; which all help improve athletic performance. Ultimately it makes joints more mobile, tendons more compliant and the body prepared for physical activity.

Movement Integration

Movement integration is the process of rehearsing the upcoming motor skills and movement patterns. The main goal is to prime your body for the activities you’re about to perform. Usually, you’ll want to perform drills that are based on the activity you’re about to do. So in preparation before a soccer game, you may complete running and change of direction drills.

Neural Activation

The end of your warm-up should include neural activation movements. The goal is to wake up your central nervous system and prepare it for the demands of your upcoming physical activity. This is where you start to introduce small bursts of high intensity, full speed efforts at short duration intervals. Quick linear, lateral and rotational movements are generally included in this stage. 

Watch this video of Mitch going through some generic warm-up exercises that you can give a go before your next workout.

How Do You Know When You’re Ready?

There is no magical amount of time allocated to a warm-up. Warm-ups can range anywhere between 5 – 30 minutes, depending on your individual needs. It’s important to keep in mind that the more intense your physical activity is, then the more time you should give your body to prepare. You should finish your warm-up feeling energised and that your body temperature and heart rate has increased. You may even work to a light sweat, anything more than this and you might be working too hard. You should feel as though you can move freely and loosely with no strain or stress. If you’re still feeling tightness then you may need to extend your warm up time. 

Many people admit to skipping their warm-up. We’ll even admit that we’re guilty too sometimes. We hope that this warm-up checklist and video gives you a better understanding of the types of movements and activities you can include in your next pre-workout routine. Have a question? Mitch is always onboard to answer any queries you may have.

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