Why It's Worth a Few Minutes to Warm-Up Before a Workout

Health & Wellness on 02.16.13
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Have you been skipping the warm-up phase prior to exercise? Whether it's due to lack of time or not knowing exactly what to do, many people often make the mistake of undervaluing the importance of getting ready to exercise --beyond actually getting to the gym with a water bottle in tow. All it takes is a few minutes to raise the heart rate and add a few active stretches to prepare for a great workout.

You’ll find that a warm up is essential to perform well and to prevent injury during physical activity, especially for those who exercise first thing in the morning or after sitting at a desk all day. A stationary body needs to prepare the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and muscular system in advance of a rigorous workout – which can include any activity that gets the heart rate up. Getting warmed-up initiates important hormonal changes that regulate energy production, dilates blood vessels, and improves overall joint mobility.

As an added bonus a thorough warm-up can also improve your overall performance and decrease post-exercise muscle soreness. The best warm-up is based on similar movements you’ll engage in during exercise or targeting areas most needed for your specific sport. However, you can start with the following basic, dynamic movements combined with some light cardio like jumping jacks, jump rope, or jogging to get ready for almost any type of workout.

Lunges. This movement is an easy way to build strength in the lower body. It also activates the supporting muscles and ligaments of the ankles, knees, and hips, which are often the prime movers in many exercises. Be sure to keep the knee of your front leg over or behind the front ankle. Lunges should feel solid and balanced with your feet at least hip width apart. Start with 10 lunges on each leg.

Squats. Although your legs might disagree with me, I don’t think you can ever do too many squats. It’s a great warm-up movement for waking up the quads and hamstrings, as well as keeping the core tight to support the spine. Do 10 focused squats keeping your back in alignment and your weight balanced over your mid-foot.  If you want to make it more dynamic, jump up with power from the bottom of the squat position.

Arm Circles. Reach your arm out like you are going to touch a wall in front of you. Then, bring your arm up over you head so your bicep is close to your ear, then roll the shoulder open and try to bring your arm behind you like you would if swimming the backstroke. Arm circles help to open up the chest muscles and create blood flow and greater mobility into the shoulder joint. Repeat up to 20 times on each side.

Downward Dog. Yoga offers many poses that make great warm-up tools. Downward-facing Dog is a good place to start because it stretches the hamstrings, targets the Achilles tendon, and uses many back muscles. For a flowing warm- up hold each of the following postures for about 15-30 seconds: Downward-facing Dog, Plank Pose, and Upward-facing Dog.

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