A good warm-up is something done with purpose, discipline, and consistency
One of the most important parts of a workout is the warm-up. It can set the tone for the session ahead or it can be a difficult barrier to achieving your goals for the day. Despite its importance, there are still some who are lost when it comes to nailing their warm-ups. Here are a few things you might be doing wrong during your warm-up and here’s how you can fix them.
1. Not warming up or going too hard
This is pretty obvious. There are some people who want to skip the boring warm-up to get to the juicy main set. However, did you know that a warm-up is crucial toward consistency, injury prevention, and performance?
To make an analogy, superstition is rather rampant in the world of sports. For example, in basketball, you’ve heard of lucky shorts being worn underneath their uniform (hello MJ). We’ve also seen players go through their free throw routines. Why do they do it? It’s certainly not luck per se but rather it puts them in the right mindset to perform the task at hand. The same could be said of the warm-up.
Warming up is mental, emotional, and physical. By going through the paces, you have a chance of not only visualizing the workout but also informing your body that there is work to be done.
Injury prevention is another important benefit we should take note of. Without a warm-up, our muscles remain cold and tight. This means they can be more susceptible to acute injuries or even chronic problems.
Finally, we get to the good part: performance. Have you ever noticed that you sometimes feel tired quicker when you don’t warm up? Here’s why: When we’re at rest, our anaerobic (“power”) system is usually primed and ready to take up the workload while our aerobic (“endurance”) system kicks back and relaxes. The problem is, the anaerobic system easily tires out. Thus, if we want to last longer and feel better during a workout, we need to use our aerobic system more from the get-go. If we don’t, we’ll tire out rather quickly.
2. Going too easy
Going too easy during a warm-up is a common mistake people make. Yes, going easy is important especially at the start but if we maintain this easy pace throughout the entire process, we’re missing the point. We’re not preparing our body for the intensity ahead. As mentioned in the previous point, a possible goal of a warm-up is to get our aerobic system going. To do this, we need to gradually increase the intensity. Think of it as revving your engine before a race.
Here’s my favorite warm-up routine:
5 to 10 minutes easy (or longer)
5 to 8 minutes increasing intensity (every minute or two)
5 minutes easy (recover)
Do this before the main set and you’re good to go.
Believe it or not, research has shown that this age-old myth actually limits your performance. First of all, you should not stretch without warming up first. This would actually make you more prone to injury since you’re basically trying to elongate a cold muscle. That said, even if you do get to warm up, I wouldn’t recommend doing static stretches since studies show that doing this actually causes your muscles to relax. What does this mean? You produce less force, reduce running economy, and even inhibit endurance.
Of course this is the opposite of what we want. Instead, if you find yourself yearning for mobility work before a workout, do dynamic “stretches” or drills that gradually increase your range of motion. Focus on movements that are similar to the workout you’ll do. For running, try knee hugs and butt kicks to get yourself going. It will help your technique too.
All that being said, warming up is also quite an individual thing. While there are good general frameworks we can pattern our warm-ups on, it’s best that you look for what works for you. Whether it be more geared toward technique, mental focus, or physical performance, a good warm-up is something done with purpose, discipline, and consistency.
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