You might be tempted to skip the warm up when you work out. After all, you only have so much time to exercise—“Let’s just get on with it already! I’m in a hurry!”
But warming up is a critical component of your fitness routine, and skipping it could have unpleasant and even dangerous results—such as muscle strain, muscle injury and pain.
Oh yeah, and a proper warm-up will actually IMPROVE your workout performance!
The Warm-up: Basics
A warm up is a short workout period at the beginning of your exercise session. It is generally low intensity and prepares your body for the upcoming exertion.
The purpose of a traditional warm up is to slightly increase your heart rate. This raises your core body temperature and increases the blood flow to your muscles. Cold muscles and other connective tissues do not stretch very easily. A warm up session literally warms them up and relaxes them, making them more supple and ready to work.
Without a warm up, you will be more susceptible to sprained muscles, cramps and injury. Ultimately, these effects could keep you from exercising for an extended period of time as you recover, which is not conducive to the healthy lifestyle you desire.
It takes about three minutes for your body to realize that it needs to move more blood to your muscles, so the ideal warm up time is between five and ten minutes.
There is no set prescription for what your warm up should consist of. You can choose a set of preparatory exercises (such as squats, lunges, toe touches, etc.,) or you can do a light intensity version of your upcoming workout (a brisk walk to prepare for a run, for example, or lifting light weights before increasing the load).
The Warm-Up: Advanced Strategy
Now with all that being said about a “basic” warm-up, let me share with you how I personally prepare myself, as well as every one of my clients.
For long-term health and fitness combined with your weight loss training efforts it’s imperative to understand that a proper warm-up is about more than just “warming up the body.” It’s a about preparing the body for an all-out training assault that’s going to boost your metabolism through the roof.
Therefore, we look at the warm-up as a Preparation Phase for the workout to come. Through research and practical experience we’ve determined that best results are typically seen when an exercise prep routine incorporates 3 key components:
- Tissue Quality
- Corrective Exercise
- Mobility & Activation
Almost all chronic joint pain or overuse injuries are caused by tightness and restrictions in the muscles above and below the joint in question. In other words, it’s not about PAIN SITE… it’s about PAIN SOURCE!
Knee pain is often caused by restrictions in the tissue of your calves and front/inner/outer thighs. Back pain is often caused by restrictions in your glutes and hamstrings. Shoulder pain is often caused by restrictions in your thoracic spine (T-Spine), chest and lats.
Tissue quality describes the general health of your muscles and the interconnected web of fascia that surrounds them all. Over time, we develop scar tissue, adhesions, knots and trigger points due to high-intensity training, overuse, and/or extended periods of sitting.
The best way to address this is to self-massage sore, tight, and restricted muscle groups of the body to regenerate tissue both pre and post-workout to promote injury reduction and allow for a smoother, more productive workout.
In addition, self-massage before stretching allows for a better, more complete stretch by smoothing out the knots. You should always precede flexibility work with tissue quality for best results.
Massage is one of those counter-intuitive things whereby you are actually actively searching for pain. In fact, it’s the only time to ever do so when it comes to proper training.
The best analogy I can give you is this:
If it hurts that much when you put pressure on your muscles, just imagine how bad your joints must feel!
We all have unique “issues” with our body mechanics and functional movement capabilities. For some it’s a lack of flexibility, while others there may be a balance or mobility issue. Perhaps there’s an asymmetry – one side is significantly “stronger” than the other leading to muscular imbalances, postural distortions and overcompensation injuries. You can find out your individual corrective needs by going through a movement screen such as the Functional Movement Screen (FMS).
The FMS is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By screening these patterns, the FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These are issues that can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort body awareness.
The FMS generates the Functional Movement Screen Score, which is used to target problems and track progress. This scoring system is directly linked to the most beneficial corrective exercises to restore mechanically sound movement patterns.
Exercise professionals monitor the FMS score to track progress and to identify those exercises that will be most effective to restore proper movement and build strength in each individual.
So, in a nutshell, the FMS is designed to
- Identify functional limitations and asymmetries which have been linked to increased injury risk
- Provide exercises to restore proper movement, and build stability, mobility, and strength in each individual
Mobility & Activation
More than just a typical warm-up, a mobility and activation circuit truly prepares your body for a maximum performance workout.
Mobility describes the ability of a joint, or a series of joints, to move through an ideal range of motion. Though mobility relies on flexibility, it requires an additional strength, stability, and neuromuscular control component to allow for proper movement. Activation is often paired with mobility because many mobility exercises activate key, and often dormant, pillar stabilizers in your hips, core and shoulders.
More Than Just a Warm-Up…
So, as you can see, a warm-up is much more than just a warm-up when you’re training smarter for long-term health, fitness and fat loss goals.
Think twice before you skip the “warm-up” in your next workout!