Why is warming up before exercise important?
Warming up is an essential part of your workout. Warming up thoroughly prepares your body for exercise, warms the muscles, raises the body temperature, helps the joints to lubricate and reduces the overall risk of injury from your workout.
Performing a thorough warm up also enhances your performance during the exercise session that follows.
The warm up should always be performed before preparation stretches so that you don’t injure yourself from stretching cold muscles.
Depending on how much time you have and what you plan to do during your workout, you can do either a specific warm up or a general warm up.
A specific warm up can be used if you are going to do a strength training workout for your legs, for example. In this case, your warm up could involve light resistance exercises and stretches for the lower body.
If your session will involve the whole body you should do a general warm up. A general warm up consists of two main parts: the mobility exercise and the pulse raiser. You can perform these two parts of your warm up separately or together:
An important part of the warm up is the mobility exercise. The mobility exercise mobilises the joints and helps them to lubricate with synovial fluid, so they are prepared for more strenuous exercise. This all helps to prevent injury.
Mobility exercises should use the body’s own weight in simple movements such as squats, leg curls, hip circles, side bends, neck rotations and shrugs. This section of the warm up should last around 5 minutes.
The pulse raiser increases the pulse rate, increases breathing rate, increases body temperature and blood flow. This prepares the body for further, more strenuous exercise.
A good way to warm up for a pulse raiser is to go for a gentle run or a fast walk. Depending on how fit you are, you should run or jog until you are feeling warm and a little out of breath.
The length of time you will need depends on your fitness level but should normally be 5 or 6 minutes. If you are preparing for a strength workout, your run or walk will most likely be on a treadmill at the gym.
The pulse raiser should gradually increase in intensity to leave the exerciser breathing a little more heavily and slightly perspiring.
Pulse raiser and mobility exercise combined
For advanced exercisers, it is a great idea to combine the pulse raiser and mobility exercise into one warm up session. Good machines to use for this are the rowing machine and cross trainer.
This is because both of these machines use all the body parts as well as having a strong cardiovascular element, so the joints, muscles and CV system all get a thorough warm up.
The aim of the warm up is to get the heart rate up, muscles warm and joints moving, all in preparation for more strenuous exercise.
Stretches and Rewarmer
After the pulse raiser and mobility exercise the exerciser should perform some preparation stretches for about 3 minutes to finish the warm up.
Following these static stretches the body temperature and heart rate may have lowered in which case a rewarmer may be required in order to bring the body temperature back up.
The rewarmer is a moderate intensity pulse raising activity, such as jogging or another cardiovascular exercise.
Read about how to cool down after your workout.