A surprisingly large amount of people, even seasoned gym-goers, seem to think that warming-up before a workout is unnecessary, or even a waste of time. Others put in the minimum effort possible, maybe a couple of stretches and a lunge or two before launching themselves into a grueling exercise regime.
While some people might “get away” with this for a while, it’s a really bad idea to force your body straight into hard work mode with no warning. Your risk of injury is significantly higher, which could put you out of the gym for weeks, and that would really slow your progress.
An effective and well thought out warm-up should be considered an integral part of any workout. To help you plan yours, we’ve gathered some top tips to maximize the effectiveness of your warm-up sessions.
Warm-up for your warm-up
OK, this might sound silly at first, but if you want to have the most effective workout, with the least chance of injury, you need to warm-up first. But to do that right, there’s a few things you need to do even before you get to the gym.
Catch those Zzz’s
First up, make sure you’ve had plenty of sleep the night before. If you’re sleep deprived, your body isn’t going to respond as well to exercise as it does when you’re well rested. Whether you’re doing cardio, weights or resistance training, you’ll perform better after a full night’s sleep.
Top up the fuel tank
The next priority is nutrition. Before you get to the warm-up you need to make sure your body has the energy you need for the workout you have planned. Don’t overload your system, but equally, don’t go into your routine starving. A small snack on the way to the gym should be enough to see you through. On a similar note, make sure you’re well hydrated, and bring water or a sports drink with you to keep topped up through the session.
Don’t go 0-60 right away
The whole point of warming-up is to prevent a sudden shock to your system, so don’t launch into your warm-up routine like you’re trying to set an Olympic record. Take it slow, starting off with gentle stretching and slow movements, and gradually increase the intensity as you feel your muscles start to respond. Using elastic bands can help keep your warm-up movements smooth and consistent.
Warm-up your mind as well
You can use the warm-up to prepare yourself psychologically as well as physically for the workout ahead. Rather than watching another Netflix drama on your phone, try putting on some motivational music. Spend the few minutes before you work out visualizing your goals for the session, thinking about any improvements you want to make in form or technique, and allowing yourself to relax, ready for the challenge ahead.
Be dynamic, not static
Despite what film and TV would have you think, standing around doing static stretches isn’t really a great way to prepare yourself. You should be planning a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise. This helps prepare your cardiovascular system and respiratory system as well as stretching your ligaments and getting blood flowing to the major muscle groups.
Match your warm-up to your workout
Different types of training need different types of warm-up - makes sense right? For some reason lots of people get stuck in the habit of doing the same old warm-up routine, whatever training they have planned. Customizing your warm-up to your workout each time is much more effective at preparing the specific muscle groups you’ll be relying on most.
If you’re going to hit the bike for a long session, warm-up with some gentle cycling. If you're planning intensive cardio, maybe try skipping rope or jogging in place. If you plan on doing some heavy lifting, some positional preparation like lunges, star jumps or arm circles to get your joints and tendons ready for the task ahead.
Make it yours
The most important point in all of this is that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to designing your perfect warm-up. It’s something that’s unique to each individual. But if you follow the guidance above, and listen to your body each time, you’ll find which elements work for you, and which need a bit of tweaking to suit your warm-up style.
Once you’ve cracked it, you’ll be surprised at the improvements in your performance and recovery times.
This blog post was written by contributors from Victorem Gear.