Is Warming Up Really Worth It?

Many see their warm-up routine as a waste of time, don’t take is seriously, or fake it all together. However, I would argue that your warm-up is the most important part of your workout. The benefits of a proper warm-up are significant! A proper warm-up can prep your body for today’s workout, rid yourself of soreness from past workouts, improve your performance, and decrease your chances of injury. That’s just too much to miss out on, so here’s what you need to know!

Why should you take the time to warm-up?
Next time you go to a professional sporting event, show up early and take note of how the athletes are preparing to perform at their highest level. If it is a basketball game, you will notice they start with slow layups and jogging, and progress through a variety of stretches and jump shots before finally moving on to game speed movements. Just like these athletes, you need to give your body a chance to adapt to new levels of exertion and get the neuromuscular systems up to speed and ready for high demand. Not warming up thoroughly can leave you feeling lethargic, tight, sore, and uncoordinated. It can also set you up for injury.

The physiology behind a warm-up:
As you start moving, your heart rate will increase to get more blood to the muscles you are using. This brings in the nutrients and oxygen necessary to create energy for movement. The extra blood flow also helps rid the muscles of the resulting waste products like lactic acid that lead to muscle soreness.

Think of your body like a car. When you start your car and begin to drive, a form of energy is required. The gas used by a car is similar to the body using blood to bring in nutrients. As the engine works to move the vehicle, energy is burned and there is a byproduct that exits the car as exhaust.

The same thing happens in the body. As the muscles use nutrients from the blood to create movement, a form of exhaust is carried away from the muscles and out of the body. This allows you to continue to create and use energy efficiently. Warming up jump starts this process, and it can even clean out the waste products remaining from the previous workout.

Just like the muscular and cardiovascular systems need to warm up, the nervous system does too. A warm nervous system will help coordinate your movements. Have you ever started your workout and felt like a rusty hinge and your movements didn’t seem to come together correctly? Not preparing your nervous system could be part of the problem.

Creating a warm-up routine:
The warm-up always begins with the most basic movements, followed by a natural progression to more complex and demanding movements. Be sure not to skip a step in the gradual progression from simple to complex movements, low intensity to high intensity.

Warm-up your entire body. This can be accomplished through cardio options such as walking, jogging, using the elliptical, etc. Engaging your entire body will ensure that areas which are often overlooked, like your core, still get some attention and are ready to work.

Do some light stretching throughout your warm-up. When you are cold, muscles are not very flexible and your range of motion is limited. As more blood is pumped to the area, it becomes more elastic. The goal of stretching is to ensure that each part of the body is moving smoothly through its full range of motion.

I frequently encourage people to do warm-up sets. This is for two main reasons. The first reason is that every exercise works the muscles in a different way. As you alter the angles, positions, and grips, you will change the areas that are the primary focus, secondary focus, and the stabilizing muscles involved. By going through the movements of each exercise at a low intensity you prepare the specific muscles required for that exercise.

The second reason is that you may cool down before exercising a certain muscle group. Think about leg day. You may focus on the quads for a few exercises, and then calves before finally making it to your hamstrings. By then your hams are cold and now you’re going to demand that they work hard. This isn’t exactly a formula for success.

For your warm-up set, cut the weight of what would be your first set in half and do 6-10 reps of that. Be sure to focus on proper technique. If you’re doing it wrong, slow, and are struggling, you’re definitely doing it wrong with too heavy of a weight.

How do you know if you have warmed up enough? There are a few things you should notice:

1. Your pulse and breathing will increase.
2. You should begin to feel warmer.
3. Your skin will moisten and begin to sweat.

The Wrap:
Start your workout on the right foot with a thorough warm-up. Maximize this time by warming up your entire body, lightly stretching, and implementing warm-up sets. This will help you accomplish more, improve your performance, decrease your soreness, and reduce your chance of injury.

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About the Author: Dr. Stephen Workman

Dr. Stephen Workman is a chiropractic physician practicing in Cedar City, Utah. Dr. Workman specializes in sports injuries and performance. He has treated many professional athletes, dancers, and musicians over the years. In addition to his Doctorate in Chiropractic, he has a Master’s degree in Sports Medicine and two Bachelor’s degrees in Human Biology and Exercise Science. Dr. Workman enjoys all forms of exercise, sports, and outdoor activities. He is also a drummer and an avid foodie. Dr. Workman can be reached at DocSWorkman@gmail.com.

 

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.