We all know how important it is to start each and every workout with a proper warm up.
Yet many of us, myself included, often rush through, excited to get to the fun part before we’ve really prepared our bodies for the work to come.
Goals of a warm-up include:
- gradually increasing your breathing rate. Lungs provide oxygen to your muscles. During exercise, muscles increase their demand for oxygen. Gradually increasing your respiration will allow you to continue meeting your body’s oxygen demand without the premature accumulation of lactic acid. ‘Feeling the burn’ is great, but not at the beginning of your workout.
- increasing blood flow to your muscles. Blood carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. In order to meet their increased demand for oxygen, blood flow must increase as well. Rhythmic, low intensity movements stimulate the increased flow of blood to muscles and extremities.
- elevating your heart rate. Your heart serves to pump oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. An elevated heart rate is often the most obvious sign that your body is starting to work a bit harder. Aim to increase your heart rate to 60-65% of your heart rate maximum by the end of your warmup.
- increasing the temperature of your muscles. Warm muscles are more efficient at contracting than cold muscles. They’re also less likely to be injured. I’ll do just about anything to prevent repeating past injuries.
- lubrication of your joints. As you begin to move, your brain signals the release of synovial fluid within your joints. This fluid acts like a lubricant, allowing the joints to move more smoothly and through an increasingly larger range of motion.
- enhancing proprioception and kinesthetic awareness. Proprioception is the body’s awareness of where it is in space. It’s a fundamental requirement of strength training, particularly when you’re performing single-sided and balance exercises.
- rehearsing the movements that you’ll be performing during the workout itself. Performing body weight versions of the exercises you’ll be doing during your workout proper is a great way to prepare your body for the work to come. Not only does it help to create a mind-to-muscle connection, it also gently stretches the muscles and ligaments around the joint, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury.
My favourite warm-up exercises:
I always begin my warm-up with 4 or 5 minutes of light, whole body movement.
Typically, I hop on the ARC trainer or the rowing machine because they require both my upper and lower body to move in synchrony. I keep the tension low and remember that the level of intensity I work at shouldn’t leave me sweating or out of breath.
Depending on whether I’m planning a upper body, lower body or whole body strength workout, I perform a series of body weight only exercises, working on form, keeping speed low, and increasing my range of motion with every repetition.
Currently, I’m loving the following five warm-up exercises.
Try performing 8 to 10 of each (on each arm or leg, where appropriate), in the order indicated:
1. Toe-touch-bum-drop-hands-up-squat-to-stand. Start by standing with feet hip distance apart. Bending at the waist (and slightly at the knees, if necessary), reach down to touch your toes. Lower your bum toward the floor. From this position, extend both arms straight up overhead. Push through your heels to return to standing. I don’t have a better name for this movement. Suggestions?
2. Body weight squats. Start with feet slightly wider than hip distance, toes turned out just a bit. Bend at the knees and hips to drop your bum down and back. As you do so, extend your arms straight out in front of your, keeping your eye focus across the room and your chest ‘proud’. Push through your heels to return to standing, lowering your arms to your sides as you do so.
3. Arm windmills. Kinda like they sound. Stand tall, with feet under hips, a slight bend in the knee and core held tight. Windmill your straight arms forwards (one arm will be at the top when the other is at the bottom). Change directions and repeat.
4. 1/4-of-the-hour clock lunges.Start by standing with feet together and hands at your sides. Step forward with your right foot, into a high lunge position. This is 12:00. Step back to the starting position before stepping your right leg out to the side, dropping your bum into a lateral lunge. You’re now at 3:00. Step back to the starting position before stepping your right leg (still) backwards into a back lunge. 6:00 and counting. Step back to the starting position before crossing your right leg over your left and dropping into a x-over lunge. You’ve reach 9:00. Repeat several times with the right leg before switching to the left. (Note that the order of movements on the left will be 12:00, 9:00, 6:00 and 3:00 for the x-over lunge).
5. Walk-out planks.Start by standing with feet together, hands at your sides. Bend at the knees, hips and ankles to place your hands on the ground, as close to your feet as possible. Walk your hands forward until they’re directly under your shoulders. You’re now in high plank position. Walk hands back in towards your feet, bending at the knees, hips and ankles to return to standing.
I finish my warm-up by performing a warm-up set of my first lift or two (today, that means I’ll be starting with dumbbell chest presses and bent over rows). Try 10-15 repetitions at 50% of your working load before your start your set proper (and note, the warm-up set doesn’t count as part of your workout 😉 ).
The whole routine takes me 10 minutes or so. Then I’m warm enough to move on to the ‘fun’ part of my workout!
What does your typical warm-up look like?
Do you include any of my favourite warm-up exercises in your workout?