By Brian Sabin
If your idea of warming up means walking on the treadmill and doing a few light sets on the bench, it might be time to rethink your approach to training sessions, says Martin Rooney, CSCS, strength coach and founder of Training for Warriors.
Odds are your body needs a little more love if you want to see results and stay healthy. Increases in strength, improvements in range of motion, and even the smallest aches and pain can usually be traced not to the workout itself, but to before you even begin.
Specifically, how you spend the 5 to 10 minutes warming up your body can make the difference between a great workout or feeling stuck in an ongoing plateau, adds Rooney.
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You'll hear all of the reasons to make sure you exercise, but warm-ups rarely get the amount of attention they deserve. If you start a workout without warming up, you could potentially be leaving several benefits on the table.
Here are a few reasons your body wants you to warm up:
1. Injury prevention
Study after study shows that preparing your muscles for activity decreases the risk of injury. And, this doesn't mean you have to stretch. You just need to get your body ready.
2. Improved blood flow
Movement warms up your muscles, which increases your heart rate and blood flow. The more you improve blood flow, the less likely your muscles are to suffer from strains or injuries during your workout.
3. Activated nervous system
Ever wonder why you can't seem to get stronger or you find yourself yawning during workouts? Well, it might be because your nervous system is still "asleep" when you start your workout. A good warm-up should change all of that. Not only should it prepare your mind to workout, it should also stimulate all your major muscle groups.
For some people, their warm-up consists of some cardio — maybe a five-minute jog — or a couple of arm circles.
While that is certainly better than nothing, an effective warm-up will include several exercises that help activate your muscles, increase range of motion, and target areas that commonly get injured.
Plus, without a proper warm-up to counteract the effects of long periods of sitting at work and other sedentary habits, you probably won't be going into the gym ready to perform. You need to prepare your body for the stress you're about to create.
That's exactly why a good warm-up will prime your muscles for a better session and speed your recovery afterward. A cold muscle is dangerous, but a warm muscle will conduct more energy and be more pliable and prepared to perform.
There is no perfect length for a warm-up — some people need more time and others need less. But here are a few basic movements that require no equipment and would make any strength coach nod with approval.
The key: Make sure you keep moving. These exercises aren't designed to tire you out, but you should perform them at a pace that elevates your heart rate and gets you ready to work.
Target: Lower-body muscle activation
Target: Upper body muscle activation and shoulder health
3. Runner's lunge
Target: Hip mobility
Target: Full body range of motion, core activation