Correct warm-up exercises, stretching and cooling down are fundamental to any workout program, yet they are too often overlooked. These training components are essential; however, some individuals tend to skip over a suitable warm-up program, which often makes them feel unprepared for the workout routine they plan on doing. These often forgotten training elements are not seen much in gyms in comparison to the volume of work seen on heavy sets.
There are some physical and mental benefits to warming up, with the main one being injury prevention. Warming up allows for the pumping of blood to different areas of the body, lowering the risk of joint injury or a pulled muscle.
Not only is this pre-workout activity a safety precaution, but it also has positive effects of a bodybuilder as well. For example, following a warm-up session, focus and strength are typically at their peak. Below we will explore the best warm-up exercises before a workout – step-by-step guide.
Step-by-step Guide to Warming up
Warm-up sessions are designed to gently prepare the body for a workout by gradually increasing blood circulation and the heart rate. Engaging in this type of activity will loosen the joints and increase the flow of blood to the muscles warming up provides the perfect opportunity for individuals to prepare themselves for the workout ahead mentally.
The warm-up session also sets the tone in team sports for the athletes to work together ahead of a big game. Below are details of the stages of an effective warm-up session:
• Cardiovascular Exercise: Raising the Pulse
Every warm-up session should begin with a short period of cardiovascular activity to get the blood pumping to the different muscles in your body to ready them for the workout you are about to do. Depending on the duration of the planned warm up, you should consider spending between 3 and 5 minutes engaging in light aerobic activity.
Marching in place, jogging and light riding of a stationary bike are all remarkable options that can be used to start your warm-up session. Bear in mind the importance of keeping the pace slow. It is ideal to work-out at a speed that enables you to engage in a conversation without breathing too heavily easily.
• Joint Mobility
The joints are wonderful inventions. They can perform a wide variety of movements and enable you to move in some different directions. Joints are designed to connect two bones in different parts of the body, and their functions are maximized when they are well lubricated.
Synovial fluid is the substance used by your body, in the same way, your vehicle uses oil, to ensure things are kept running smoothly. This fluid is produced on demand; therefore, before you place too much pressure on your joints, mobilize them gently to make sure the bone surfaces have an adequate amount of synovial lubrication.
Effectively mobilizing your joints includes simply moving your limbs around in a gentle but increasingly larger motion. For example, do shallow squats that progress into deeper knee bends and do shoulder shrugs that progress into arm circles. Waist bends, ankle circles and twists are all remarkable mobilizing choices; between 2 and 3 minutes will be adequate.
For some, the mere mention of stretching frequently invokes images of yoga classes, doing the splits or touching the toes. These are all illustrations of stretching; however, these are not the stretching that is typically required for your warm-up session.
The static stretches highlighted above go a long way in enhancing your flexibility, but they could cause your temperature to go down, and your breathing and heart rate will fall. This is not what is required from a warm-up session.
Dynamic stretching is the best stretching technique for warming up the body. This type of stretching involves carrying out controlled movements that are designed to take the muscles through a huge range of movement. Included among the examples are repeatedly stretching the arms up and over your head, squatting deeply and ending in an overhead reach and doing lunges while twisting the waist.
In contrast to static stretches, it only takes a few minutes of dynamic stretching to complete a warm-up since these stretches target several muscle groups. If you do between 10 and 15 reps of between 3 and 5 exercises, this will prepare you for your workout.
Go through the exercises that have planned for a workout that day at a lower intensity. For example, if you have a long, grueling run ahead, your warm-up should ideally include a few technique drills. If you are doing back squats during your workout session, you should consider starting by squatting with an empty bar or do bodyweight squats during warm up.
By practicing the movement patterns, you will be developing neuromuscular adaptation, which is muscle memory, and this will continue to get your body ready for action.
There is no limit to the range of warm-up moves that could effectively prepare you for your workout. Changing things up from time to time is always a fun and effective approach.
Ultimately, you should go for a warm-up routine you find enjoyable and always remember to listen to the cues from your body. You should not be fatigued by your warm-up session; after all, it is just one phase of the workout. Also, you should always remember to cool down after your workout.
Example of a Dynamic Warm Up Routine to Consider
For your warm-up session, you could consider the following routine, if your fitness level and overall body conditioning allow:
• 30 seconds of high knees
• 10 air squats
• 10 push-ups
• 10 lunges
• 10 burpees
After this warm-up, you will be adequately prepared to jump right into your work out for the day.
Is it Necessary to Warm Up Before Lifting?
It is necessary to warm up before lifting weights. However, no one-size-fits-all warm-up routine will work for everyone. Below are some specific types of warm-up routines for specific groups:
Warm-up Routine for the Younger Folk
If you intend to warm up before doing a full body workout, three warm-up compound exercises will help to prepare you. For example, you could do a lat pulldown, bench press or push-ups, and squats.
Complete one set at 50 percent of your normal weight for between 12 and 20 slow reps. From there, you should go up to 70 percent of your normal weight and between 10 and 15 slow reps.
The warm-ups could all be done at the beginning of the workout; however, warming up as you go is much more time efficient. Therefore, if your full body workout will start with leg exercises, do only the squats warm up initially.
When you are ready to start working your chest, you can move on to doing the bench press warm up. This will save you from a lot of racking and unracking of the weights.
However, if you will be doing a split workout, you should warm up the affected areas. For example, you should do lat pulldowns to prepare for a full workout or do bench to prepare for a push workout.
If you are doing a 5-day split with only one workout per body part, your warm-up will be a little different, particularly for arms. With your arms, there is almost 100 percent isolation exercise, so for that workout, your primary isolation exercise should be used for a warm up.
Warm Up Routine for the Older Folk
The older you are, the longer it will take to warm up, particularly the joints. It could take 20 minutes or more to warm up the knees for a leg workout. When you are older, doing between 5 and 10 minutes of cardio is a remarkable place to start.
Ensure that you break a sweat, do not just spin your legs as you are reading the newspaper, you need to push it. Next, start your warm-up sets only as is required for a younger individual.
The difference is not rushing it; you should begin at a lower percentage, roughly 25 percent. Additionally, you should move up in weight more slowly, do additional sets and be guided by your joints.
Wait until you feel completely ready before hitting the first heavy set. If your legs and knees take 30 minutes to feel like they can complete the first set, you should go with it to avoid becoming injured.
Necessarily, to warm up for weightlifting, cardio alone is inadequate and stretching does not help. You have to do warm up sets at 50 percent, 70 percent and 85 percent of your 8 rep weight.
There is no need to warm up for every single exercise as this is time-consuming. Simply warm up with the biggest compound exercise that you are doing for that particular body part.
Below is an example of conventional bodybuilding, which involves making use of light to moderate load in resistance training:
• Start with between 2 and 5 minutes of very light aerobic activity.
• Move on to 5 minutes of self-massage/foam rolling.
While this is optional, it is highly recommended. It is designed to reduce the feeling of ‘stiffness’ without really decreasing muscle stiffness and nervous system tone. It provides all the perceived advantages of static stretching without delivering the numbing effect of the nervous system.
• Do between 5 and 10 minutes of dynamic warm up.
• Two or more warm-up sets should be done to prepare for any big compound movements that are set to take place early in the workout routine.
• In the context of weightlifting, a dynamic warm-up should involve preparing any muscle or movement you will be training that day. Layering in mobility work and activation work where needed is highly recommended.
• If squatting is a part of your workout, some lightly loaded squat or bodyweight squat should be considered as a part of your warm-up routine. If you are deadlifting, consider some hinge.
If bench presses will be involved, complete at least a few push-ups. It is typically alright to eliminate any isolation movements that might be done later during your dynamic warm up.
Generally, larger compound movements will prepare smaller muscles within this context. For example, the push-up variations you do will prepare your triceps for the upcoming workout.
This is not an indication that isolation work should not be done; however, experts recommend that individuals combine more deliberate moves based on muscles that can enhance their performance during a workout.
For example, you could do activation drills or short-term core stiffness work and then perhaps some shoulder or hip isolation work. This is ideal as these two joints are highly mobile and you will benefit from enhanced performance while lifting.
• If you have issues with tight ankles and their mobility will be challenged during the workout, a mobility drill should probably be used in your warm-up routine; a dynamic or active stretch would be ideal.
For example, if you will be deadlifting and you experience challenges when trying to get into a correct deadlift position due to a deficiency in dorsiflexion at the ankle, a drill that boosts dynamic range of the joint of the ankle would be a remarkable idea during the warm-up phase of your workout for that day.
That same drill, or a variation of it, could be interspersed between deadlift sets; this is frequently referred to as a ‘filler,’ and it will assist in alleviating some of the challenges you face while doing deadlifts.
Additional Information on Warm Up Sessions
How Long Should a Warm up Last?
Some factors determine the ideal duration of a warm-up session. For example, if you have been sitting or have been otherwise immobile for the majority of the day, if you are feeling cold, if you feel achy or sore or if you are about to embark on an extremely rigorous workout, a longer warm-up period would be in order; this should last for about 15 minutes or so.
However, if your workout will be a light one, you are in an environment that is warm, or you have previously been quite active, a shorter warm-up period is just fine; this should last roughly 10 minutes or less.
This time frame can be made as flexible as required, but the warm-up should never be skipped. Also, you should not abbreviate your warm up to less than 5 minutes unless you are engaging in a dynamic warm-up session. The bottom line is that by the end of your warm-up routine, your mind and body should feel as if they are ready to move on to your main workout session.
How Much Weight Should a Warm Up Set Be?
The warm-up set is outlined below is typical for the majority of individuals:
• Begin with a very light set that involves between 10 and 15 reps. For this initial set, you would typically only use the bar without any weight added to it or very light dumbbells if your actual workout will be done with dumbbells. For machine exercise, you should add some equally insignificant or light and easy volume of weight.
• For the next set, you should complete 8 reps using between 55 and 60 percent of the weight that will be used during the actual workout. For example, if the first set you planned for your workout involves lifting 200 pounds, you would use between 110 and 120 pounds for this set.
• For this set, you should complete 5 reps using between 70 and 75 percent of the weight that will be used during the actual workout. For example, if the first set you planned for your workout involves lifting 200 pounds, you would use between 140 and 150 pounds for this set.
• In this set, you should complete 3 reps using between 80 and 85 percent of the weight that will be used during the actual workout. For example, if the first set you planned for your workout involves lifting 200 pounds, you would use between 160 and 170 pounds for this set.
• For the concluding warm-up set, you should only do 1 rep using between 90 and 95 percent of the weight that will be used during the actual workout. For example, if the first set you planned for your workout involves lifting 200 pounds, you would use between 180 and 190 pounds for the final set.
You would then rest for the recommended amount of time for that particular exercise; after which, you can start to work on your first set.
Guidelines and Reminders on Effectively Warming Up
1. Keep It Light and Short
As previously established, it is recommended that individuals engage in approximately 10 to 15 minutes of slow and easy warm-up activities. An easy bike ride, a light jog and a brisk walk all fall into the “slow and easy” category. The objective of the warm-up is to break a sweat before moving on to stretches and exercise-specific aspects of the warm-up session.
A good rule of thumb is warming up at approximately 30 percent of the maximum intensity provided that the workout will be roughly at 80 percent intensity.
2. Stretching Should Be Dynamic and Not Static
Walking around with your arms out like Frankenstein is a remarkable warm-up technique that is appropriately called “Frankenstein.” In this dynamic warm-up activity, you kick up your legs to meet your arms while walking.
Movements that actively stretch the muscles like arm circles and butt kicks are also highly recommended. Stretches like static hamstring should be avoided before exercising as your muscles would be cold. Studies have found that these movements could lessen your power in the actual workout.
3. Warm Up Should Be Exercise Specific
If you are preparing your body for cardio, you should aim to slowly increase your heart rate and breathing to prevent becoming fatigued too early in the main part of the workout. Zooming from zero to 100 is similar to not sitting up, stretching or shaking off the grogginess and just leaping out of bed as soon as you wake up in the morning. Warming up is essential as it prepares the body to enter into a new phase of activity.
If you are getting ready to take on a weightlifting workout, it is highly essential that your movements are practiced with light or no weights to figure out how your joints are operating that day, and it is also important to run through your range of motion.
In essence, you do not want to find out your stance is unsteady or that there is a kink in your knee when there is already 100 pounds on your shoulders. If you find that something hurts outside the normal realms of muscle soreness, you should not proceed until you have consulted your doctor or physical therapist.
Agility workouts, such as team sports, lend themselves to speed drills and other warm-up activities that are designed to activate the neuromuscular system and test out the quickness of an athlete on a particular day. For example, before a cycling workout, some cyclists like to do ‘ladders,’ initially building up, taking down the resistance and then alternating between speeding up and slowing down, while increasing and decreasing cadence and power.
They use this as a remarkable indicator of fatigue, and if no quickness is there, they take it as a sign that probably that day is not a good day for a particularly challenging workout.
4. It Should Get Your Mind Ready
If nothing else is accomplished, warming up prepares you mentally for the physical toll your workout will take on your body. Studies conducted by some sport psychology researchers and several accounts from professional athletes have revealed that mental imagery, which is visualizing how success will be achieved on the field or court, can improve performance quite dramatically.
Understanding what the goals of your workout are before going into it is quite helpful.
Experts recommend thinking about what you are likely to say to yourself when you face challenges such as feeling like you want to quit during the workout. This is important because our feelings are generated by our thoughts.
More Details on Dynamic Warm-Up
The term dynamic warm-up has been used a few times in this article but what is it? As the name suggests, a dynamic warm-up uses dynamic stretches to prepare the body for the main part of the workout; essentially, the stretches are dynamic because you are moving while you stretch.
For a long time, static stretching, which calls for holding a stretch for at least 10 seconds in a motionless position, was the go-to warm-up activity for athletes.
There are some reasons dynamic stretching is viewed as the core of a warm-up session. These include:
• Muscles that will be used during your workout are activated by a dynamic warm up. For instance, doing a lunge with a twist is an example of a dynamic stretching exercise that engages your core muscles, your legs, and your hips.
Whether you are lunging for a soccer ball during a game or performing weighted lunges in the gym, the muscles involved would have previously been engaged during the warm-up routine.
• Body awareness is improved by dynamic stretches. If you skip the warm-up portion of your workout and hop right into a game of soccer, it could take a while to get your body to perform optimally. Your balance and coordination are challenged when you move as you stretch and these skills could go a far way in enhancing your performance.
• The range of motion is enhanced by dynamic stretching. Therefore, if you feel like you are struggling to bend over to untie your shoes at the end of a long workday, a dynamic warm-up session can assist you in feeling more limber.
• Muscular power and performance are enhanced by warming up in motion. Some studies have found that dynamic stretching before working out can help you in lifting more weight and increasing overall athletic performance in comparison to static stretching or not stretching at all.
If your ultimate aim is to build more muscle, become stronger or improve your physical performance, a dynamic warm-up session is quite likely your best option.
5-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up
Below is an example of a dynamic warm-up routine that does not call for any equipment. It is designed to prepare your entire body to move optimally, and best of all, it can be done in only five minutes.
This is a basic routine that can be utilized as an effective warm-up activity for some different activities; from a full-body strength training workout to interval training sprints.
Complete 10 reps of the exercises below for a round or two. To safely and effectively execute the moves, you can watch videos from trusted websites for demonstrations and tips on each move.
• Lunge with a Twist
As implied by the name, this combines two different moves: one is a forward lunge, and the other is a horizontal twist. Forward lunging helps with stretching the hip flexors and activating the glutes, legs, and hips. The twist activates core rotation by stretching out the upper and middle back. When executing the lunge, step forward and then lower your hips.
You should avoid lunging too far forward to prevent your front knee from extending far beyond your toes. After the lunge has been executed, you should slowly twist toward the side to which you are lunging to achieve a more intense stretch of your hip flexor.
• Knee to Chest
This movement imitates the top of a running stride as your knee is lifted towards your chest before the foot is positioned toward the ground. While stationary, you can alternate each leg do the movement while walking forward.
Your main focus should be on bringing your kneecap into your chest, and this should be done by hugging your shin while you use your opposite foot to step onto your toes. This will provide you with additional leverage.
• High Kicks
These types of kicks are designed to help with warming up the hamstrings and enhancing a range of motion. These can be carried out by alternating while you walk or when you are stationary as you focus on one side at a time. Extend your right arm straight out, if you decide to start with your left leg.
Kick up your leg while you keep your and hand and leg straight to keep your toes from hitting your palm. Attempt to kick progressively higher; however, this exercise should be completed while you stay under control.
• Stretch the Hips with a Twist
This exceptional stretch is especially ideal for working professionals who spend long hours sitting during the day. It helps in stretching the core, upper back, and middle back while opening up the hips and groin. For effective execution, begin in the push-up position and lift your right foot to meet your right hand, while ensuring your lower back is flat, and your hips are down.
With your left-hand leading, twist your body to the left, while your arm is extended towards the sky. Go back to the starting position and repeat the moves on the opposite side. Aside lunge could substitute for this exercise to help with working on your lateral movement.
This is a remarkable exercise to assist in warming up the upper body, particularly the shoulders, while your entire core is being activated. To execute this move, you should begin in a push-up position and then lower your body towards the floor.
While you are pushing back up, your right arm should be extended toward the sky, while your left arm is kept stable to prevent your hips from moving in an upward or downward position. With your arm again in the starting position, do another push-up and then use the left arm to repeat the moves.
• Advanced Jump Squats
These squats are a remarkable plyometric exercise meant for warming up the lower body. The exercise is extremely fast, and as such, a greater level of power and force production is required in comparison to the other exercises in this listing. Therefore, it is considered as being a more advanced warm-up activity.
To effectively execute a jump squat, you should stand up firmly with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, while your hands are placed on your hips or behind your head. Lower your body into a squat position until your hips are almost parallel to the ground, then, with force, jump up off the ground; land softly and do the jump again.
• Advanced Jump Lunges
These provide another incredible plyometric exercise to warm up the lower body. Advanced jump lunges require balance as well, and this is needed to assist in activating your stabilizer muscles in the hips and legs. To perform these lunges effectively, put your hands behind your head or at your sides; begin the movement with one of your foot extended forward and the other one behind.
Lower your hips toward the ground and use force to jump into the air. While in the air, you should switch your legs to get the front leg behind you and switch your back leg to the front.
Making It Easier
To simplify this dynamic warm-up, you have the option of doing some of the movements assisted while you hold on to a stable and sturdy object such as a pole. For instance, there is the option of making an assisted reverse lunge or an assisted squat, which makes the exercises a lot easier and much more manageable. As it relates to the hip stretch, you can opt not to open up your shoulders. With the T-push up, the push up does not have to be done.
As you can see, a solid dynamic warm-up routine can effectively get your body ready for exercise. The next time you decide to go for a jog, hoop it up on the basketball court or hit up the gym, you should think about giving this warm-up a go. Your body will be entirely grateful.
Warming up before a workout is not just necessary; it is tremendously vital as it prepares your muscles for activity. Without this essential aspect of your workout, not only do you risk injury, but you get far less from your exercise routine as well. A good warm-up session will make you feel faster and stronger from the start.
If you like this post? Don’t forget to share on Pinterest!