What should I do to warm up before exercise?
We know we should warm up before exercise and we know why we need to warm up before exercise. But what should you do - and what should you avoid doing?
The reason for a warm up is to prepare your body and mind for the coming exertion. This includes getting the cardiovascular system, your heart and blood circulation, ready and also the muscles you are going to be using for your activity.
It is important to recognise that warming up is not just doing a few stretches. For a start stretches are unlikely to elevate your heart rate enough to be effective as a warm up and there is some evidence that static stretches of 'cold' muscles may not have the desired effect and may even result in greater levels of injury.
Instead a good warm up will utilise the muscles which are going to be used most in your activity and also incorporate the movements you will use BUT starting at a very low intensity or range and slowly building to the level needed for your activity.
For example a warm up for running might include a few minutes of slow jog, followed by increasing use of the lower limb muscles - walking lunges and high steps for example and also include some back and upper body mobility exercises.
A warm up for golf may include a slow jog to elevate the heart rate and increase blood flow but will focus more on the rotational aspect of the golf swing - slowly increasing the range of rotation and the dynamic power of the rotation - slow deliberate swings should come before heading to the range to crack those 300yd drives.
What to do for your sport? Think about firstly increasing your heart rate and booting your circulation to your muscles. Then consider the movements you do with your sport and think about replicating those movements well within your normal range and intensity, and slowly increase until you are moving as you would to compete or train.
And you might be asking how long your warm up should be? Probably 10-20 minutes is sufficient but it is more important to make sure you have warmed up all major muscle groups you are going to use to optimise your performance and reduce your chance of injury.
Do you have a great warm up routine? Why not post it in the comments.
If you are not sure what to do talk to your coach or alternatively we can give you specific advice on preventing injury during your appointment.
Happy training and competing!