Warming up before exercise is one of the easiest and most important things that you can do to reduce your risk of injury. A good warm up for injury prevention can also help improve your performance – it’s a win-win!
What is a Warm Up?
A warm up is a gradual way to get your body ready for the demands of your chosen exercise. When performed properly, the warm up period should last about 10-15 minutes. In addition, it should be specific for your chosen activity. In other words, the exercises and stretches you include in your warm up should target the same muscles and areas of the body that your chosen activity will use.
Purpose of a Warm Up
A well-designed warm up functions to prepare you, mentally and physically, for the demands of the sports activity you are performing. It does this by increasing blood flow to your muscles, increasing body temperature, and increasing your heart rate. In addition, a warm up improves range of motion by stretching the muscles that you will be using for your activity. Together, this gets your body ready to perform its best and decreases your risk of injury.
Examples of Warm Ups
For example, if you are planning to go for a run, your warm up should include dynamic lower-body stretches, like walking lunges and leg swings. Follow this with a light activity to get your heart rate up, like jumping jacks or squat jumps. Alternatively, if you are planning to lift weights for your upper body, your warm up may start with several minutes on a rowing machine. Follow that with some dynamic arm exercises such as arms swings and some D2 shoulder swings. Continue the warm up by doing a few reps of your lift with no weight on the bar. After that, progressively increase the weight as you build up to your target.
Likewise, if you are getting ready to play a sport, whether in practice or a game, your warm up should target the specific muscles that you will be using. Start slow and gradually progress throughout your warm up to the desired intensity of the sports activity. In addition, your warm up is a great opportunity to build in repetition for desired movement skills. You can also include targeted drills to improve mobility. More about that in a future blog!
After your warm up, you are ready to move into your planned activity. If you still have some tight areas in your body, take a few more moments to stretch lightly. About 15-20 seconds at a time for a specific area is enough. However, don’t spend so much time stretching that you cool down and need to do another warm up! After your workout, while your body is still warm, is the ideal time to do a thorough stretching routine to cool down. We will cover the cool down in another article.
Warm Up for Injury Prevention
So what are you waiting for? It only takes about 10 minutes, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. A simple warm up routine that is easy to remember is best. Prevent injuries and improve performance by adding a warm up to your exercise routine today!
Written by: Stuart Schmidt, MS, ATC, CSCS athletic trainer supervisor for The Center Foundation in Bend, OR. Learn more about Stuart HERE.
The Center Foundation provides sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. We do this by placing certified athletic trainers in local high schools to keep kids safe. Learn more about our work HERE.