Given the busy lifestyle of today, many people want to ensure that when they schedule in their gym sessions, they make the most out of every single second of their time there. Whilst this enthusiasm is great to see, it is not the best approach and can have detrimental impact to both your health and performance.
It is common to see gym-goers skipping the warm-up and focussing immediately on their work-out programme. In theory, it can be argued that this approach best utilises the time spent in the gym as more time spent on the work-out itself. However, the truth is that this can cause a number of issues and can even cause avoidable injuries.
So, what is a warm-up and why should you ensure you include adequate time to complete one before every workout?
The purpose of a warm-up before physical activity is to prepare yourself both mentally and physically for your chosen activity. It usually involves a form of cardiovascular activity (e.g. jogging, cycling) alongside dynamic stretching (active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion). Both of these elements of the workout should revolve around what the upcoming workout will involve, and should last around 10-20 minutes. For example, if the planned workout involves a lot of lower body exercises, it is key to ensure that the legs are adequately warmed up before commencing.
Warming up increases your heart rate which increases blood flow to the muscles/ joints. This means that more oxygen is pumped to the muscles, providing them with what they need to contract effectively. It also increases body temperature, which helps to warm and lubricate the joints. Increasing blood flow and body temperature prior to exercise has many beneficial results which include:
- Increased flexibility
- Improved range of movement
- Reduced stress on joints
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved performance
In short, it is important to make sure you make the warm-up a standard part of your exercise routine, in order to improve your personal performance and reduce the risk of injury.