Most people assume the best way to warm up for an exercise session, is to engage in some form of traditional cardiovascular exercise for a few minutes…
But, while doing some form of cardiovascular exercise to warm up your body’s systems can help, it is not the best way to prepare our body for an exercise program.
An adequate warm up should focus on preparing the body for the specific movements it will be performing in the workout session.
To do this we need to stimulate the neuromuscular pathways (just a fancy way of saying the relationship between your brain and your muscles) that we are going to use.
I generally don’t advocate for static stretching as part of a warm up, as your muscles and body tissues are still relatively cool and therefore not pliable. Think of taking a piece of blue-tac out of the freezer and immediately trying to stretch and contort it? It wouldn’t work, and neither will your muscles. Static stretching while cold can make your muscles spasm, which will shorten them an cause pain and a dysfunctional body movement pattern.Instead I recommend a functional and dynamic stretch, with fluid and flowing movements.
- Mimic the workout
This is one of the best ways to get your brain and muscles communicating effectively. We should start our warm-up by performing some of the exercises in our program with a reduced range of motion and less weight. For example, if we intend to do some lower body exercises we can warm-up by doing some lunges or squats, but only go halfway. This way we are not placing any stress on our muscles or joints while the body part is still cold.
- Build up
As we progress through the warm up we can increase the tempo of each repetition. If we intend to use weights in our workout we could work up to the full weight. Gradually moving the body into full depth, speed, and weight will allow our heart rate, and respiration to gradually increase in preparation for the exercise program, reducing muscle soreness and lessening your risk of injury.
- Warming-up for cardiovascular exercise…
We not only need to warm up for a strength and resistance session, but also cardio workouts such as running, swimming, or dancing. The most important thing with cardio warm-ups is to get the heart rate up prior to training, but to do it in a gradual and controlled manner. The three previous warm up recommendations stretching, mimicking the exercise and building pace should still work for cardiovascular exercise. A tip for cardio warm ups, is to keep it at a level where you can still hold a conversation. Most times I exercise, I train the whole body, so instead of warming up particular body parts and muscles, I take myself through various body movements that essentially get the body as a whole ready for the exercise program ahead…The warm up sequence I do prior to exercising doesn’t change much. Some might find it boring, but most importantly for me it is safe, effective, and it works!