Why and How to Warm Up

What’s the best way to warm up?
Do I need to warm up?
Is doing my first exercise in my routine with lighter weight a good enough warm up?

 I’ll start by telling a story of a person that didn’t warm up… they woke up, drove to the gym, and put on their dancing shoes. It was leg day and this individual was starting the routine with squats. So, squat is what they did: empty barbell for reps, 135 for a few reps, 225 for a few reps, 315 for a few reps, then working weight, then a low back and glute (butt) injury that effected this individual for quite some time. 

After injury and recovery: this individual comes to the gym 20-30 minutes early so that they can spend time warming up and preparing for the workout that day. This much time isn’t always necessary, but it couldn’t hurt. A proper warm up should take at least 10 minutes.

Why Warm Up

Warming up greatly reduces the chance of injury! It has even shown in studies to reduce fatigue. Warming up prepares you mentally and physically for your workout routine. If done correctly, your joints and muscles will be prepared for intensity, impact, and full range of motion. Studies have also shown that warming up may increase overall energy for your entire day!

How to Warm Up

One of the easiest things to consider when it comes to warming up and what to do is in the name itself. Your primary goal of the warm up is to raise your body temperature (warm up)! This is done by elevating your heart rate for long enough of time to get blood flowing throughout your body, and specifically to the muscles that you will be training that day.

-Perform light to moderate cardio to elevate body temp
-Perform light stretching and mobility exercises to improve the elasticity of the muscles in the body. Some would argue that this increases injury risk. I do not recommend holding a stretch for a long time, but instead stretching lightly for 10-30seconds or light dynamic stretching done by going into and out of a stretch position. (If you hold a stretch for more than two minutes, the tissue will adapt to the new length potentially make it weaker at the new length. Long strenuous stretching should be saved for after a workout or at a completely separate time.)
-Perform light movements that engage the body fully or specifically to the targeted body group.
-Perform light core exercises to prepare them to stabilize and protect the lower back, and ultimately the whole body.

Now you are ready to begin the routine!

***ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, start with a weight below working weight and build up. If you will be working an exercise at 225, do NOT start there immediately. Building up also prepares the muscles for load, and the nervous system for work.

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Example Warm Up for Lower Body Squat Workout

-Airdyne or Stepper for 5-10 minutes (this will elevate the heart rate and raise the core temp of your body and target muscles of the lower body as well)

-Light dynamic stretching of the entire body

-Circuit 2 or 3 times around:
Plank with Shoulder Tap
Light weight leg extension x10-20reps 
Light weight leg curl x10-20reps
Body weight lunges x10 reps

-Squats with empty barbell x20-30reps

Progress weight to working weight with 3-6 sets

Now your body and mind are ready to perform! You have just reduced your chance of injury during your workout greatly!

Ryan Sensenig