If you are reading this you must be having an idea of the merits of a good warm-up before a workout session.
But if you are one of those people who shirk away from a warm-up then you are missing the essential prep the muscles and joints need for the exercise.
The body needs to be made ready for a workout. A sudden push or pull can damage the muscle tissues and lead to long term injuries. When your body is at rest the muscles are in the idle state. When they are subjected to a hard workout like weight lifting without a warm-up the muscles tend to stress under pressure and even put the tandem joints at risk.
For all those who tend to miss on the essential warm-up exercises –
Here are some good reasons why you must never skip Warm-Up exercises before a workout
1) You increase the heart rate and blood flow in the body. This helps in greater oxygen distribution throughout the body aiding the release of energy.
2) The muscle tension decreases. As in the sedentary state, the muscle and connecting tissues are tense and hard, a warm-up facilitates their tendency to stretch and contract easily.
3) The body temperature increases steadily. This helps in charging the heat dissipation system of the body, without it, you may feel uncomfortable and fatigue quite early affecting performance.
4) The range of motion of the muscles increases. The muscles begin to stretch and contract easily which in turn helps to enhance the range of motion during a workout.
5) Besides prepping the muscle and joints for the workout a warm-up also helps the nerves system and the mind to condition for a workout. As the body temperature and oxygen flow in the body increase the willingness to train is strengthened.
6) You avoid many injuries due to stiff joints and muscles by preparing the whole body for the exercise. As you warm up the body is primed for the workout. Hence the sudden jolts of a workout session are less likely to cause harm to the working muscles and joints.
7) Studies show that performance and endurance are positively affected by a warm-up routine. With a good warm-up routine, you get in the flow of the activity with an increased cardiovascular level and mental conditioning that helps in maintaining good performance level.
8) A warm-up helps in overcoming the muscle soreness due to a previous workout session. This, in turn, aids in breaking the dullness and lethargy to activate the individual.
Dynamic (stretching) workout exercises
We now know the benefits of a good warm-up routine and how it positively enhances our performance during a workout. But what is the best way to warm-up before a workout?
Many coaches stress the need to stretch properly before a workout. So that you loosen your muscles and prep them for the workout session.
But you may be surprised to know that stretching alone just does the opposite of making your muscles and joints ready for the workout. It tends to relax the muscles instead of pumping in more blood and energy for the workout session.
Whereas a Dynamic Warm-up can be pretty helpful before a workout.
It uses dynamic movements to stretch the muscles through the full range of motion, in turn, increasing the blood flow and body temperature.
It can be characterised as a series of movements to get the body moving for any kind of exercise.
The body undergoes a range of motion that may mimic the motion of the workout. You activate the muscles and joints to be employed during the exercise by moving and stretching them in the same way as during the main exercise.
Say you have a chest day at the gym, then a good warm-up could be bodyweight push-ups that activate the chest, shoulder and arm muscles before you hop onto a bench press. For a leg workout, air squats and leg swings can be a great warm-up that would activate all the muscles required during the exercises.
As oppose to static or general stretching during the dynamic stretch, you stretch the muscles and tendons while in motion.
Why Dynamic Stretching is the best pre-workout stretch
Besides incorporating the benefits of a good warm-up session listed above, during dynamic stretching you actually work on the muscles you will use during the workout.
This can be seen as a warm-up set for the workout where the muscles and joints to be engaged in the exercises are stimulated for the load.
Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching – In Static Stretch a certain muscle is stretched and held in a challenging yet feasible position for atleast 15-20 seconds before releasing it. This loosens the muscle and increases the blood flow for recovery. Static Stretching relaxes the tight muscles and helps in cool down. Hence it is best suited for a cool down after a workout session.
Whereas in Dynamic Stretching the muscle is prepared for a workout mimicking the muscle and joint movements that would ply during the exercise. Hence it is best suited as a pre-workout warm-up.
Dynamic Stretching vs Cardio Warm-up – Warm-up through a brief cardio session is a common practice. A cardio session before a workout does help in alleviating the body temperature and increase the oxygen flow but a Dynamic workout has the added advantage of stimulating the muscle tendons and joints. While running on a treadmill, for instance, you might not get the muscle stimulation for shoulders and chest muscle for a chest workout but this is not the case with the dynamic stretch.
Also during dynamic stretching, the muscles are stretched through a full range of motion. You move your body in different planes so as to improve the muscle activity as opposed to the linear plane during a treadmill jog or a walk.
Dynamic stretching can be accompanied by some kind of cardiovascular activity to retain the benefits of both. Alternatively, the dynamic stretch is done for 5 to 10 mins before a workout would suffice for an effective and injury free workout.
What should be the duration of an effective warm-up?
The duration of the warm-up must be proportional to the type of exercise you would perform subsequently.
This means that if you plan to do a leg resistance workout for example, then a warm-up must activate the lower body and elevate cardiovascular level. This might take 5 to 10 mins.
While if you wish to dive into an intricate workout like gymnastics then it might seem better to invest more time on warm-up to prime the whole body.
Moreover, it must be kept in mind here that a long warm-up routine would hamper the performance during the workout by causing muscle exhaustion. It might negatively affect the workout by depleting energy levels of the body.
Some good examples of Dynamic Warm-up Exercises are
- Arm circles
- Air Squats
- Hip Rotation
- Leg Swings
- Side Bends
- Shoulder Rotation
- High Knees
- Jumping Jacks
So, does this post help you appreciate the warm-up more before a workout session? or Do you already incorporate Dynamic Stretching in your warm-ups? Do comment your take below.