I know. The summer months can get hot.
But that doesn’t mean you can or should skip your warm-up.
The warm-up is so much more than just warming up your muscles before you train, it’s preparing the mind and the body for the activities ahead.
Here’s all the great reasons you still need to warm-up even when it’s warm out
- Increase blood and oxygen flow to working muscles
- Prepare your mind by firing the neurological pathways of the exercises/activities about to be performed
- Decrease the viscosity of synovial fluid, thus preparing the joints to move (making the joint more able to glide within itself)
- Increase muscle contractile force
Let’s take a deeper look at the ways a warm-up will help you to perform better
In the most basic way, warming-up increases your heart- and breathing-rate, which helps to circulate more oxygenated blood throughout your body–to all your muscles and your brain. Muscles work better when they have a good supply of oxygenated blood.
Warming up your body also decreases the viscosity of your synovial fluid-think the grease of your joints. When we are at rest or when our bodies are not warm, our synovial fluid has a much higher viscosity and we may even feel a bit stiff. (I often describe this with an example of when you first wake up you tend to feel a bit stiff from lying down for some 6-9 hours, but as you move and go about getting ready for your day you start to feel a little more fluid and less stiff. This is because you have decreased the viscosity in your joints or ‘greased your joints’ as I say.)
In your warm-up you’ll want to include some movement patterns that are similar to those you are about to do in your training. For example, that could be:
- body weight squats before you squat heavier weight with kettle bells,
- a standing active straight leg raise to help warm up your splits,
- or even wrist prep work with less than your bodyweight to prepare to balance on your hands.
Finding movements that will warm you up and prepare your body and mind for the work ahead is really important.
- They prepare your brain by firing the neurological pathways/nerve impulses to the muscles, innervating the muscles you’ll be using in the activities coming after the warm-up. Essentially waking up the muscles and preparing them by “putting them on stand-by”.
- Getting warm ramps up the force generation capabilities of your muscles, which is another way of saying your muscles are stronger after your warm-up than they were before your warm-up.
These two points combined mean that your warm-up can make your muscles prepared for the forces they will need to generate in the movements of your training session–the movements you just were moving through in a less demanding manner.
Notes on a proper warm-up
- Duration of 15+ minutes-depending on the season and the warmth of the air around you. Yes-I did just say that if it’s warmer around you you may only need to warm-up for 15 minutes. But it the air is cool because you’re in a place set with a low temperature on the thermostat, then you may need more time to warm-up. Especially if you are like me and always cold. In the winter I need 20-30 minutes, depending on how cold I was before getting to the studio.
- Your thorax (your torso) warms up quicker than your limbs. This is important to know because if you come to the warm-up feeling cold and you are engaging in an activity that is asking high demands from your feet and hands you will want to take some extra time on those body parts furthest away from your thorax. [Read: if you are climbing: rocks, silks, rope, squeezing bars: dumbbells/barbells or trapeze/lyra or balancing on your hands or someone on them then take the extra time to warm them up. Same goes for your feet and ankles. If you are about to be dancing, climbing or lifting weights (people-weights or traditional weights) show them some extra love.]
- It’s called a ‘warm-up’ for a reason- it should leave you a little sweaty, generally. If you happen to be a person who sweats rather easily it might leave you a bit more sweaty than a person who doesn’t sweat easily. Again, I am cold all the time, it takes a lot for me to feel sweaty-which is why I wear layers. This is a great segue into my next point.
- If the air is cool around you, wear layers to help raise your body temperature for an adequate total-body warming.
- As stated in the previous section, please include some movements that you’ll be doing in your training session to prepare the mind and body.
- Keep the prolonged static stretching for after the ‘work’ of your training session is complete. Holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds, is certainly ok, if you feel you need it, but if you’re really hoping to make some changes in your muscles’ length, doing so before you are about to use them in a challenging manner-this not the best time. [Not to mention static stretching doesn’t really make lasting changes in your muscles’ flexibilty…and that’s a whole other post entirely] **There are mixed reports as to whether static stretching is beneficial or injurious if used in a warm-up. Some reports say short-duration stretches followed by some muscle activations can be good. This meaning that stretching is not the last part of the warm-up, but somewhere in the middle, and I tend to follow this approach.
If you want to check out more info with some more detailed information with even more science, I really liked this article and highly recommend it.
Reduce Potential Injury
Lastly, let’s talk injury prevention. A warm-up does not make you bulletproof, but when you do warm-up, you are less likely to injure yourself because your muscles are now more prepared to exert that force, move in a particular direction, move to a particular depth or do whatever it is you are asking them to do in a challenging way.
Really this [injury prevention] is what it’s all about it. Because you don’t want to be sitting around not training, you want to be getting stronger and more proficient at your training and discipline of choice. That is also what I want for you as a coach. So please don’t skip the warm-up just because it’s warm-up.
As always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us or ask in the comments below. If you need some more guidance or are looking for personal help please feel free to contact us as we work with people in person and online to create specific programs for their goals.
Be Well, ~Theresa