Countless articles, magazines, webpages, Instagram posts, tweets and Facebook links are shared daily regarding the fitness industry. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep caught up…one day, they say it’s healthy to do 100 squats for a week, and the next day, it’s pointless to do more than 15. Most of these articles are about weight loss and gaining muscle, but the thing you don’t see often is the first step of your workout…the warm up. This article will go through the point of a warm-up, the effects it will have, and some suggestions on how to incorporate it into your daily workout.
When it’s minus 26 degrees in Edmonton and blowing snow, do you go out and turn your car on and drive to straight to work? Or do you run out with your pyjama’s and a ski jacket on to start it in advance, turn the defrost on high and run back in to the warmth of your house while you wait for your car to heat up? The same goes for when you get to the gym. Going straight into a high speed, high intensity workout can be dangerous-and sometimes very uncomfortable.
There are a few things a warm up does to get your body prepared for work. One, it helps elevate your heart rate, which will in turn achieve vasodilation and faster blood flow. But, why would this be important? Well, your blood carries many different hormones and most importantly oxygen. Things that are required by your muscles to be able to perform optimally, or sometimes even at all. Delivering these nutrients to your muscles will achieve smarter performance, stronger contractions and quicker, more efficient muscle twitch. Another thing that warm up achieves is the preparation of your following training program. Practicing similar movement patterns as what you plan to do in your workout can help for an increased neural adaptation and more efficient and safer movement patterns.
With all of this physiological adaptations in mind, there isn’t much research on what you should be doing in your warm up. According to researcher Ian Jefferys along with many others, he believes a warm up should have 3 components-aerobic, dynamic and lengthening. Aerobic could be as simple as cycling for 5 minutes at a low intensity to start blood flow and increase heart rate. The dynamic component could vary from doing walking leg swings, to arm circles, or something movement specific such as a body weight squat. The lengthening portion is to lengthen the muscles, however only for a short amount of time (10-20 seconds) to ensure you aren’t depleting your potential power output. Putting all of these components together can range between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the intensity you choose. At the start of a workout, it is very important to take the time to focus on each of these components for injury prevention and management, joint lubrication and allowing the nervous system to prepare for some hard work!
A simple way to remember the point of a workout, is Ian Jefferys method called “RAMP”. R stands for raising the temperature of the body. A is for activating the key muscles being used in the following workout. M is for mobilizing the key joints through the ranges of motion that will be happening during the work, and finally, P is for potentiating the process of increasing efficiency of the movements that will be performed. It is important that your warm up accomplishes all 4 of these things through the 3 components of aerobic, dynamic and lengthening.
So, next time you go to the gym, try spending some time on your warm up. You can expect to see an increase in how much you’re lifting, how long you’re running, or how quickly you can perform an exercise. For a lot of people, they feel like a warm up goes beyond just getting their blood flowing and increasing their temperature, but is also a direct reflection on their workout will go. Going to the gym after a stressful day at work and going straight into the work load could have a negative effect on the outcome. Try incorporating the 3 components to your next workout along with giving your body and mind 10 minutes to get focused, get prepared, and get your joints moving before trying difficult exercises!
- Jeffreys, I. (2007). Warm Up Revisited-The RAMP Method of Optimizing Performance Preparation. UK Strength and Conditioning Association, July(2007)
- Neiva, H. (2013), Warm-Up and Performance in Competitive Swimming. Sports Med (2014)
- Pearce, AJ. (2012). Neural conduction and excitability during a simple warm up. Journal of Science Medicine Sport. March(2012)