As we get older it becomes increasingly important to warm up properly to avoid injuries. These six pre-workout warm ups will help prevent injuries at the gym so that you don't pull a muscle and throw your training schedule out.
You may think you’re too young to need to warm up, but if you’ve ever played sport you’ll remember that warming up beforehand is important to reduce your risk of injury. This ensures that you’re in an ideal state to perform the movements required to get the most out of your workout.
In the past, static stretches were thought to be the best way to warm up before training.
Examples of static stretching include:
- Shoulder stretch
- Groin stretch
- Hamstring stretch
And holding the pose for 10 to 20 seconds.
However, studies show that these stretches might not actually be the best way to prepare for exercise. They can also lead to lower performance levels in terms of lifting weights. As a result, static stretches should rather be done after you train. You can replace static stretches with dynamic stretches during your pre-workout warm-up.
Dynamic stretching can be thought of as sports movement, and is the perfect full body warm up. Dynamic stretching activates the muscles that are going to be used during your workout, and it improves your range of motion and limbers you up.
Not only does it increase your heart rate, body temperature and blood flow, but it challenges your balance and coordination. This prepares your body properly for high intensity running, jumping, kicking and catching. Dynamic stretching can help enhance your muscular performance and power as you are athletically prepared for your workout.
You can up the intensity of the stretches by incorporating things like a Pilates ball or resistance bands. Just remember not to stop and hold the stretch as those are better left for the post-workout warm down.
Sport and exercise is often erratic and unpredictable. A dynamic warm-up ensures you’re conditioned to deal with anything, lowering your risk of injury.
6 best warm ups to do before you train
Lunge and twist
Keeping your left leg straight, lunge forward with your right leg and bend your knee - completing a lunge. Then twist your body to the left and return to your starting position. Repeat the exercise for the opposite side. You can complete a set of eight to 10 sets to warm up.
Muscles targeted: quads and glutes
Stand with your back straight and your arms extended 90 degrees from your sides. Slowly rotate your arms forwards making small circles, progressively making them bigger and bigger. Do this for 20 seconds, then switch directions by rotating your arms backwards and repeating the set.
Muscles targeted: shoulders, triceps, biceps, back
Stand with your feet a shoulder length apart. Take a big step sideways with your left leg, keeping your back straight and bending your right knee. Move back into your original standing position. Repeat this movement with the opposite side. Aim for eight to ten reps to warm up.
Muscles targeted: groin, hips
From a standing position, holding on to a wall or fixed surface (or without for an added stability challenge), and swing your left leg back and forth 10 to 15 times as if you’re kicking a football. Repeat this action with the right leg.
Muscles targeted: hamstrings and core
This is a plyometric exercise and can be quite a challenge. From standing, lower yourself down into a squat. Jump straight up into the air, not too high and come back down into the squat. Repeat this exercise for as many reps as you can manage in 30 seconds.
Muscles targeted: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and core
You can do calf raises on their own or, for an added challenge, with a resistance band or weights. Stand straight with your feet on a raised surface (such as a step or aerobics platform), heels hanging off the edge. Raise your body onto tip-toes, stretching your calf muscles, and hold for five seconds, then slowly come back down into your starting position. Repeat this action 10 to 15 times.
Muscles targeted: calves
Why warming up is important
Doing a warm up may feel somewhat time consuming if you’re on a tight schedule and want to get straight into working out. But, it’s more important than you think. It’ll improve your overall performance in the gym, as well as your recovery afterwards.
Many of us fall into the trap of immediately hitting the weights or getting right onto the treadmill at full sprint, ready for our high intensity interval training (HIIT). But, you’ll find that your actual effort will be lowered because your muscles won’t be, well, warm! As with everything, you need to gradually get your muscles into a rhythm that is conducive to exercise, rather than going from a complete stop to a full on start.
Think of it as shifting gears. You pull off in first and then move through the gears until you reach fifth, or sixth (if you’re lucky), and from there you can push towards your own top speed.
The benefits of a dynamic warm up include:
- An increase in core body temperature
- Injury prevention
- More oxygen to your muscles
- Faster, more agile muscle movements
- An improvement in exercise performance
- An enhancement of mobility
- Distribute fluids into the joint spaces
- Release connective tissue bonds
How long does it take to warm up
Warming up should normally take between 10 and 20 minutes, however, it also depends on the exercises you are going to be doing.
Does warm up prevent injury?
Warming up can be the deciding factor between picking up an injury or progressing to reach your fitness goals. You can avoid suffering from DOMS or the stiffness that you would normally encounter after an exercise, which will help you when you want to train the next day.
Common sports injuries are largely preventable. Warming up contributes to making them less likely to occur. Warming up becomes especially important if your genetic fitness report suggests that you have a high injury predisposition. With this knowledge, you’ll then be able to focus on limiting the likelihood of picking up injuries. Understanding your genes and working with your body is one of the best ways to prevent injuries.
What happens if you don’t warm up?
When you don’t warm up, you’ll find that a few things will happen to you during and after your workout:
- You will feel less flexible
- Some movements will be more difficult to perform
- You could suffer from DOMS
- Your next day’s training will be affected by stiffness
Warming up is a crucial component to all workouts. In future, you can start your workout by including a few quick exercises from the list above. This ensures that you don’t waste too much time, but still enjoy the benefits of warming up.
Often, a lack of results from exercising can be fixed with a few small lifestyle changes. Download our guide, Optimising Your Gym Workout, for expert advice including more pre-workout tips, what to do after you exercise, a review of supplements, and diet and nutrition tips.