A warm-up should be performed before participating in most sports or exercise methods.

What is the point of doing a warm-up?

A warm-up should typically achieve 2 things :

1) To raise overall body temperature, increase cardio-vascular (heart-rate) and respiratory (oxygen intake) levels and loosen up the body before more strenuous exercise.

2) To prepare the specific muscles to be used in the forthcoming exercise by increasing the temperature in these muscles, improving blood-flow to these muscles, activating the muscle fibres within these muscles, and dynamically stretching the muscles to be used.

What should you do to warm up?

While a wide range of warm-up exercises may be used as part of a warm-up routine, perhaps the most essential aspect of a warm-up is that it must relate to the planned phase of more intense exercise.

Often the best way to ensure this is the case is simply to start off by performing the chosen exercise at low intensity – for example, before running one might start by walking briskly and/or jogging in order to warm muscles and increase heart rate. Before performing a weight training exercise one may first perform the exercise with a low weight or just the bar alone. When other exercises are used as part of a warm-up they should work to activate and stretch muscle-groups that will be used in the main exercise session.

Will any light exercise do as a warm-up?

It is important that warm ups should be specific to the exercise that will follow, which means that exercises used during the warm up should prepare the specific muscles to be used in the target exercise and to activate the energy systems that are required for that particular activity. So for example attempting to warm-up with a hamstring stretch before performing barbell biceps curls would be fairly pointless, whereas skipping with a rope prior to running directly warms up both the whole body generally and the legs specifically.

Warming up prepares the body mentally and physically

Stretching as part of a Warm-Up

In most cases it is beneficial if a warm-up routine includes some elements of stretching the muscles to be used in the target exercise e.g. taking a limb or joint through its full / maximum range of motion (even if the target exercise requires less than maximum range of motion).

We recommend that all warm-up stretching should be dynamic (not static) in nature, unless specifically indicated otherwise (e.g. to pre-stretch antagonist muscles prior to utilising agonist muscles in a target exercise).

It is important that core body temperature is raised prior to dynamic stretching and/or that dynamic stretching begins slowly, only increasing in intensity as the body becomes acclimatised to the stretch / increased range of motion.

A Warm-Up is not meant to be Hard Training!

It is also important to remember that the purpose of a warm-up is to prepare the body for later exercise at a higher intensity – a warm-up should not leave you tired before you even begin your target exercise! If this is the case, you are missing the point of a warm-up and have moved directly into exercising and you should reduce the intensity of your warm-up.

Remember, warm-up then train hard – don’t train too hard during a warm-up.

A warm-up will improve the effectiveness of training and should be done before every training session.

Direct physical effects of an effective Warm Up

  • Release of adrenaline
  • Increased heart rate (which enables oxygen in the blood to travel with greater speed)
  • Increased production of synovial fluid located between the joints to reduce friction (which allows joints to move more efficiently)
  • Dilation of capillaries (which enables oxygen in the blood to travel at a higher volume)
  • Increase of temperature in the muscles and decreased viscosity of blood (which enables oxygen in the blood to travel with greater speed and facilitates enzyme activity) – Encourages the dissociation of oxygen from haemoglobin
  • Causes greater extensibility and elasticity of muscle fibres (resulting in increased force and speed of contraction and plyometric ability)
  • Increase of muscle metabolism (more efficient supply of energy through breakdown of glycogen)
  • Increase in speed of nerve impulse conduction

Warming Up Can Help Avoid Injury

An effective warm-up routine can also greatly reduce the risk of many types of injury associated with high intensity exercise.

It is better to take the time to warm-up and avoid an injury than to loose weeks of training time while recovering…

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