Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wake Up Your Warm Up

We've all heard that warming up before a workout and cooling down afterward makes for a happy body, but why? Today a coworker and I chatted about how impatient we feel during warm ups and how we struggle through them because they seem boring compared to the real deal.

But ever since I learned about the benefits of warm ups from my NASM certification, I have become a big advocate of warming up properly before getting to the bulk of a workout. But before I became a personal trainer, I didn't give much thought to how I warm up; I assumed anything that increased my heart rate was sufficient. Very quickly I fell into a routine of walking for five minutes and then jumping into my more intense exercises.

The truth is that warming up benefits your body in a variety of ways, and a walk or light jog aren't always the best options. I thought I'd provide a little insight into warming up, and I hope it helps you out!

Disclaimer: All information derives from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

So what are the benefits of a warm-up?
  • By bringing your heart rate up, you increase the cardiorespiratory system's ability to work, increase blood flow to active muscle tissue, and increase oxygen exchange capacity.
  • By raising your tissue temperature, you increase the rate of muscle contraction, increase opposing muscles' contraction and relaxation efficiency, increase metabolic rate, and increase soft tissue flexibility.
  • Finally, by warming up, you mentally prepare for the workout, which increases your readiness to attack your routine!
What type of warm-up should you do?

If you are in the beginning stages of a new workout routine--or if you are new to working out altogether--you'll be working toward improved stabilization. Your warm up should include:
  • self-myofascial release (foam rolling)
  • static stretching (holding a stretch for about 30 seconds per muscle)
  • cardiorespiratory exercise (5-10 minutes) 
Self-Myofascial Release (Foam Rolling)

For more experienced exercisers focusing on building strength, warm up with: 
  • self-myofascial release (foam rolling)
  • active-isolated stretching (hold each stretch for 1-2 seconds and complete about 5-10 reps per muscle)
  • cardiorespiratory exercise (5-10 minutes)
Finally, if you're very experienced and emphasizing power in your workouts, you should complete a functional warm up that includes:

  • self-myofascial release (foam rolling)
  • dynamic stretching (examples include lunge with rotation, single-leg squat touchdown, or prisoner squats--the movements would mimic your planned workout moves) (complete 10 reps per side)
Example of dynamic stretching (leg swing)

What are the options for cardiorespiratory warm-ups?
Let's face it: Walking on a treadmill for 5-10 minutes isn't exactly thrilling. And maybe you belong to a gym that has a 30-minute limit on cardio equipment, so you can't exactly spend all that precious time getting your heart rate up. So consider mixing up your cardio warm-up!
  • Dance - shake it to your favorite song, throw on a dance video, find a quick Zumba video on YouTube.
  • Walking or jogging - Walk to the gym, or jog a few laps around the workout area. Even a lap or two around the parking lot ought to do the trick. 
  • Stairs - Jog or walk up and down the stairs at your house, a park, or the gym.
  • Mix it up - if you'll be performing your more intense cardio on the treadmill, you could warm up on a different machine, such as the elliptical or stairmaster.
The idea is to increase your heart rate but keep the intensity well below your eventual target for the more intense workout. Don't go crazy during the warm-up, but be sure that the movements are full-body, dynamic movements (activities such as jumping jacks, skipping, and cross-country skiers are awesome warm up options).

If you're looking to spice up your warm-up, I hope this overview helps! Enjoy that leisurely warm-up time before your kickass workout!

Any recommendations for good cardio warm-ups? What's your favorite way to foam roll? 

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