Skipping the warm-up is like cooking a meal without prepping the ingredients. Forgot to defrost a crucial vegetable? It might come out okay in the final dish—but skipping the introductory steps only makes the process longer and harder to get through.
Whether you’re training for a marathon or going for a bike ride in your neighborhood, a warm up readies the heart, lungs, and muscles for the main course: the workout.
#1 IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
Have you ever found yourself ready to give up half-way through a workout? It happens to the best of us, but warming up beforehand helps to make workouts easier and safer.
Doing low intensity aerobic exercises before an intense workout allows your body to get more oxygen to your muscles. This reduces the danger of lactic acid buildup. That means you’ll be able to work out at a comfortable rate for much longer.
LACTIC ACID BUILDUP 101
What, exactly, is lactic acid buildup? When you jump straight into an intense workout:1
Your body can’t deliver adequate oxygen to your working muscles.
Your muscles and body begin to slow down to prevent further damage.
Lactic acid builds up, causing a painful sensation in your muscles.
Unlike regular muscle soreness, lactic acid buildup can set in almost immediately. It’s your body’s way of telling you to stop. But it doesn’t fade as quickly as it comes on—your body could take a few days to fully recover.
This is an experience you won’t want to repeat. And that’s yet more motivation to make time for different TYPES OF WARM UP exercise.
#2 IMPROVE YOUR RANGE OF MOTION
When your muscles are stiff, your workout is limited. So, why not learn HOW TO WARM UP FOR LEG DAY or incorporate a CHEST DAY WARM UP into your routine?
Warming up beforehand can help improve muscle elasticity and make it easier to reach your full range capacity.
How? Your warm-up raises the temperature of the body and increases the flow of blood to the muscles. This causes the muscles and joints to loosen up. They won’t twist or tear in painful ways, so your workout will go smoothly, and you’ll be able to make progress more easily.
MUSCLE HEAT PRODUCTION
Curious to know more about muscle heat production? Here’s how it works:2
Carbohydrates and fat are burned to create energy for the muscles, producing heat.
As muscles increase in temperature, so does the blood flowing through them.
The harder you work out, the warmer your muscles become.
Warmer muscles are able to relax because of a decrease in tension.
Less tension means less pain and increased mobility
Your muscles can’t perform at their best when they're stiff and cold. To access their full range of motion and become stronger, they need to warm up first. That way, your body can work at peak efficiency.
#3 PREVENT INJURY
Because warming up loosens your muscles, it can also help to prevent issues such as:
Strains and sprains
Jumping straight into an intense exercise session gives your body no time to prepare. It’s more likely that your stiff muscles will tear or rip in the process causing more problems down the line. Start your workout on the right foot with a warm-up routine.
STRETCHING BEFORE A WORKOUT
If you’re interested in adding stretches to your warm-up routine, make sure you're doing the right type of stretching.
There are two types of stretching exercises: dynamic and static. What's the difference?
Dynamic warm up entails movement, while static requires stillness.
Dynamic stretching exercise raises your body temperature while static stretches cool you down.
Dynamic stretching exercise loosens your muscles while static stretches lengthen them.
As you can see, dynamic stretching better fits the goals of a warm up routine. To feel the full benefits of muscle elasticity and improved performance, add dynamic stretches into your warm-up. Then, use static stretching to cool down.
#4 ENHANCE STRENGTH AND SPEED
Want to get stronger and faster? Warm up. When you’re first starting your fitness journey, you might assume that skipping your warm-up will increase the intensity of your workout and help you make much faster progress.
Instead, skipping your pre-workout routine has the opposite effect
Working out cold puts significant stress on your muscles. How can they do their job if they’re tense and stiff? It only makes it harder to activate them and puts unnecessary pressure on the cardiovascular system as well. You’ll be able to get stronger once your muscles are already warmed up and more elastic.
If your focus is on strength training and getting faster, then cultivate a warm-up routine that reflects your fitness goals.
DON’T STRESS OUT YOUR HEART
Failing to prepare properly before a strenuous workout negatively affects every part of your body, especially your heart.
For the most part, exercise is undeniably good for the heart. Some benefits include:3
Lower blood pressure
Aid in maintaining a steady, healthy body weight
But when you start your workout too strong, it can overwhelm your bodily systems. The heart has to work overtime to encourage blood flow and get the needed oxygen to the muscles. In the end, it diminishes the efficiency of the workout and counteracts the benefits that exercising can have on your heart and health.
#5 IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL STATE
Beyond your body and heart, warming up is beneficial for your mind as well. It offers you time to clear the deck and focus on your workout. Taking a few mindful moments to sink into your body can have a positive effect on your ability to concentrate and stay motivated.
It's easier to give up on a workout if you're not in the right headspace!
Following a proper and effective exercise routine can do more than improve your focus. Other benefits include:4
Better mental health
Think of a warm up as setting the tone for the rest of your workout routine. A proper pre-game routine can put you in the right mental and physical state to achieve your fitness goals.
HOW TO WARM UP
The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare your muscles for an intensive workout.
Not sure what exercises to do or how long to do it for?
The two main goals of a warm-up are:
To increase your heart rate and ease your body temperature
To loosen the muscles you'll need for your more strenuous workout
A warm that is 10 to 20 minutes long is enough to accomplish the above two things, but consider the overall length of your workout. If you only plan to run one mile, a three- to five-minute warm-up could provide adequate benefits.
Beyond length, consider how you warm up.
Need an idea of where to start? A warm-up can include two types of exercises:
Mild aerobics such as walking, jogging, swimming, and dancing
Dynamic stretching such as walking lunges, squats, arm swings, and hip rotation
In some cases, you might perform static stretches to target particularly sticky parts of your body.
Choose your activities based on your plans for your workout. Since you're focusing on different parts of the body, the routine may change.
Choose your aerobics based on your routine. For example, a brisk walk could help you build up to a run. Likewise, push-ups can prepare you for an upper-body workout.
The same principle applies to your stretches. Arm swings stretch the arms, shoulders, and back making them great for a chest day, but not for leg day. When that’s the focus, try out lunges and other hip stretches.
Keep in mind that the exercises you choose shouldn't be intensive. Your warm-up is just meant to get you started. Find what works best for you and turn your fitness goals into habits.
WARMED UP? DON’T FORGET TO COOL DOWN
After the warm-up and the workout comes the cool-down phase. By that point, you're probably ready to stop as soon as you finish your last rep. But, before you do so, help your body gradually to slow down. So, WHY IS COOLING DOWN AFTER EXERCISE IMPORTANT?
When you finish working out, your heart is still racing, and your body temperature is higher than normal. Stopping without a cool down can make you sick or pass out.5 In terms of WHAT HELPS MUSCLE RECOVERY, help ease your body out of this elevated state using these tips:
Try static stretching. This kind of stretching is better after your muscles are already warm and loose. Doing so may reduce any lactic acid build-up.
Steady your breathing. Exhaling and inhaling as you stretch steadies your heart rate and helps to cool your body temperature down.
Take the time before and after your exercise to support your body.