Before exercising or any strenuous physical conditioning it is important to warm up and prepare the body for activity. The most important reason for doing a warm up is to reduce the chances of sustaining an injury during exercise. The warmer your muscles get before exercising the more alert they will be; which will allow your body to handle the increased physical stress placed on it.
During a good warm up your blood vessels will dilate. This will ensure that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen, which they will need in order to carry out repetitive contractions. It also raises your muscles temperature to improve flexibility and efficiency. Warming up will also slowly raise your heart rate, which will help minimize stress on your heart.
Other benefits of a warm up
- Increased muscle temperature: The temperature will increase within a group of muscles that are used during a warm up. A muscle that is warmed up both contracts more forcefully and relaxes more quickly. This way both speed and strength can be enhanced.
- Increased blood temperature: The temperature of blood increases as it travels through the muscles. As blood temperature rises, the binding of oxygen to hemoglobin weakens so oxygen is more available to working muscles.
- Improved joint range of motion: The range of motion around a joint is increased. This will also allow for quicker joint movement in activity that requires rapid joint movements.
- Hormonal changes: During a light exercise warm up your body increases its production of certain hormones responsible for regulating energy production. During the warm up this balance of hormones makes more carbohydrates and fatty acids available for energy production.
- Mental preparation: The warm up is also a good time to mentally prepare for exercise or an event by clearing the mind, increasing focus, reviewing skills and strategy. Positive imagery can also relax and build concentration.
Different types of warm ups
Most warm up sessions can include a combination of cardiovascular exercises, stretching, plyometrics, or agilities. The cardiovascular exercises are designed to increase circulation, increase body temperature, and bring the heart rate up. Stretching is intended to warm up the muscles and prepare them for the movements they will be required to carry out during exercise. Explosive strength exercises, which may include sprint drills or jumps, gently increase the level of intensity and prepare the body for sudden movements. These exercises should only be done once the muscles are warm. Have fun with your warm up and be creative.
How long to warm up
Warm up times can range from 5 to 15 minutes. However, the more intense the activity you want to do the longer you should spend warming up. Do whatever activity you plan on doing (running, walking, cycling, etc.) at a slower pace (jog, walk slowly). Use your entire body as well. For some people walking on a treadmill and doing some modified bent-knee push-ups will suffice for a full body warm up. However, some may need to lightly run on a treadmill and do straight leg push-ups and body weight pull-ups.
If stretching is apart of your warm up, it’s important to hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. If you feel you need more, stretch the other side and return for another set of stretching. The stretch should be strong, but not too painful. It’s also important to slightly increase your breathing when you’re stretching. Exhale as you stretch, inhale while holding the stretch.