Don’t Skip the Warm-Up: How to Properly Prepare for Exercise

Before you begin exercising, it is important to get your muscles warmed up so that you are fully ready for the workout you have planned. Warm Up
Warming up allows you to prepare both physically and mentally so that you can successfully complete your workout.


Why is Warming Up Important?

Warming up protects your heart

In a study conducted with 44 men, 70% showed abnormal EEG (heart monitor) changes when they were asked to run on a treadmill for 10-15 seconds without having properly warmed up.

The men who showed abnormal readings were asked to come back the following week to repeat the test. However, before beginning the same activity that they did the previous week, they were allowed to perform a 2 minute warm-up. The results from the second test showed that nearly everyone improved.

By gradually increasing the intensity of your workout by beginning with a warm-up, your heart also has time to gradually increase the blood flow to your muscles. This helps you avoid a sudden increase in blood pressure protecting your heart from any possible damage that could be obtained from the added strain.

Warming up prepares your muscles

Warming up is necessary before any type of physical activity or exercise, but it is especially important when engaging in activities such as HIIT.

Properly warming up is an essential component for preventing muscle related injuries. Warming up helps your muscles stretch, contract and recover faster than if no warm-up had been performed. Because warming up improves muscle elasticity, your muscles will be able to perform more efficiently. A proper warm-up will also improve your overall performance and reduce fatigue increasing the amount of time you will be able to spend exercising.

So remember, warming up not only helps you perform your best while exercising, but it will also help keep you injury free. This will allow you to continue exercising without having to take any unwanted time off in order to recover.

Keep Your Warm-Up Simple

Warming up should be a fairly simple and quick activity. You don’t want to be completely worn out before you even begin. A warm-up should be an easy or a less intense version of the activity you are about to begin.

Instead of doing the typical static stretches that can have adverse effects on performance, your goal should be to practice dynamic stretching. This type of stretching helps prepare your muscles by taking them through various movements that gradually allow them to stretch to their full range of motion.

One way to practice dynamic stretching is to gently stretch into a position until you feel a small amount of tension. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and then release. This should be done 5-10 times, each time slightly increasing your range of motion.

While a dynamic warm-up incorporates components of dynamic stretching, the two are not the same. If you want more information on how to warm-up before exercising, Mark’s Daily Apple has a fantastic article which explains how to keep warming up simple.


How Do I Know If I Have Effectively Warmed Up?

It is important to recognize how your body feels after properly warming up. A warm-up should leave you feeling ready for the activity you are about to begin.

You should feel warmer than when you started

If you don’t feel warmer than when you started, or you haven’t begun to sweat, then your body is most likely not yet ready to begin exercising at full intensity. The reason it is called a warm-up is because you are essentially “warming up” your body.

Your muscles should feel flexible and your joints should be able to move smoothly

Even if you don’t feel as limber as you know you can be, you should still be able to take your muscles and joints easily through a full range-of-motion without feeling any tightness in your muscles or hearing any pops in your joints.

During the warm-up, you should focus on how your body is moving by paying close attention to establishing correct form. By the time you are done warming up, your mind should feel focused and your body should be prepped and ready to continue the workout.

In order to stay safe during a high intensity workout, eliminate any possible distractions. By eliminating distractions, you are more likely to have a satisfying workout.

The time you set aside for exercise should be seen as a time to recharge. So it is important to stay in the moment and allow your focus to remain solely on the task at hand.

Life gets busy, and at times it can be extremely chaotic. The time you spend exercising is an invaluable part of your day.

A high intensity workout can help eliminate unhealthy stress and reduce anxiety. A good workout can also help you clear your mind so that you are ready to take on any challenge that may come your way. Use your warm-up as a time to quiet your thoughts and refocus your energy. By eliminating outside distractions and staying in the moment, you will be able to have an enjoyable workout that will leave you feeling rejuvenated.


Possible Warm-Ups

Combine several of the following warm-ups to get your body moving. Remember to choose warm-ups that will get your whole body moving if you are planning on engaging in a high intensity workout that will last more than 30 minutes.

1. Using a Foam roller or tennis ball, gently apply pressure to your muscles and ligaments.

This process stimulate your muscles and increases blood flow. It also helps work out any muscle cramps you may have from previous workouts.

Begin this warm-up by gently applying pressure to your muscles. Carefully increase the pressure while making sure that it continues to feel smooth and light. This should never feel painful or uncomfortable.

Rolling has health benefits for your back as well. A tennis ball is definitely a convenient and inexpensive option. However, investing in a foam roller for $18 is well worth the money.

2. 2-3 minutes of continuous jumping jacks or jumping rope.

This activity will increase your heart rate and loosen up your joints. During this activity, you will begin to feel yourself “warming” up.

3. 30 toy soldiers (15 each leg)

You don’t need to worry as much about the number of reps you do as the overall motion being performed. Make sure that you can feel your muscles stretching as you hit the top of the movement.

Easy warm-ups that help to loosen the joints

4. 20 small arm circles

10 should be done clockwise and 10 should be done counter clockwise.

5. 20 large arm circles

10 clockwise and 10 counter clockwise as before. If you feel any resistance in your shoulders, you should slow down the movements until your muscles and joints relax.

Stronger warm-ups that start to get your blood flowing!

6. 10-20 pushups

Increase or decrease the amount of reps based on your level of physical fitness. Focus on keeping your core muscles tight while pushing with the chest.

7. 20 lunges (10 each leg)

To make this warm-up count, your goal should be to get as deep into the lunge as possible so that you can feel the stretch in your hip flexors while at the same time working your quads.

If you still haven’t done your 8fit workout, use the routine above to help you get warmed up, motivated, and ready to go!


Important Points to Remember

An effective warm-up should prepare your body for exercise and never leave you feeling exhausted.

Listen to the clues your body is giving you. If don’t feel warm and your movement still feels tight, it’s probably best to spend more time warming up.

When you are doing any form of strength training, including lifting weights, remember to begin every new exercise with a warm-up set.

Finally, if you plan to stretch before exercising, do it after your warm-up. This will reduce any adverse effects that stretching cold could have on your joints and muscles.

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