How to Doom Your Workout Before You Even Start

Do you warm up before working out?

If you answered “no” or “sometimes,” I see you.

You’re asking if you really need to, if it’s truly that major, if it makes that big of a difference.

Spoiler alert… The answer is yes.

I can hear you groaning. See your eyes rolling. 

Do you find warm-ups boring?

Do you find yourself on a tight schedule and don’t have time for warm-ups?

Do you think they’re not actually necessary? The last time you did one was in your high school gym class?

If you’ve ever jumped right into your workout before warming up, this is for you because they are essential.

The Backbone

What is a warm-up?

It’s a preparation for physical activity that gradually increases body temperature, respiration, heart rate, and metabolism. It should also gradually increase your range of motion and intensity. 

(If you think ‘physical activity’ and ‘working out’ means the same thing, check out this post that explains the difference.)

When I use the word “metabolism”, it’s not necessarily the metabolism one thinks about when digesting food. In this case, it refers to all the chemical reactions that happen within your cells.

Also, when I say “gradually,” I mean “gradually.” Otherwise, you’re just skipping the warm-up and going straight to the workout.

The Astounding Benefits

So what exactly does it do for your body?

Well, bear with me here. We’re going to get into some physiology because it does a lot.

The increase in body temperature has many effects:

Your range of motion is increased due to the temperature rise. It increases neural sensitivity (sensitivity of nerve receptors), helps muscles move better by decreasing the viscosity, blood flow increases which increase oxygen to the muscles, and communication (impulses) within nerves increases. It also increases enzymatic activity and metabolic processes in the muscles. 

(A little background for those who have been out of school a while. Nerve impulses are what tell your muscles to contract. They also send sensory information to your brain, among other things. Enzymes basically make things happen at a cellular level. They make and break chemical bonds.)

Brings you back to high-school biology, right? For the record, I hated that class.

Back to the warm-ups. There is also less chance of injury when performing the workout or physical activity when there was a proper warm-up.

The gradual increase of intensity, from low to moderate and moderate to high, helps reduce cardiac muscle stress, lowers lactate build-up, and helps prevent spikes in systolic blood pressure.

This preparation is also for the mind. It increases mental focus, which can then enhance motor activity. Depending on the type of warm-up, it can also be a rehearsal of the movement to come, which can help you perform it better.

Do you need to remember all of this? Obviously, not. The important thing to remember is that the warm-up has real benefits and is essential.

Sigh In Relief – There’s Plenty of Options

You typically only need 5-10 minutes invested in your warm-up. It always depends on the individual and the type of activity you’re preparing for. Higher intensity activities require longer warm-ups.

They don’t have to be boring!

General warm-ups are gross motor activation, which increases your body temperature. Usually, basic movements are repeated for a set period of time. Some examples are jump roping, jogging, or cycling. General warm-ups can also include specific activation patterns or mobility work. 

Specific warm-ups tend to involve the same actions or muscles used in the workout. An example is the bench press. Use lighter weights for higher repetitions before doing heavier training sets. If your goal for the workout is to bench 100 lbs, warm up with half of that weight. Try 50 lbs for 12 reps. 

Functional warm-ups are used to improve movement. It increases joint stability, enhances proprioception, and improves the kinetic chain energy transfer. It’s also used for improved movement economy, proficiency, posture, and mechanical performance. 

Example of a functional circuit:

Perform low-level aerobic activities like walking for 3 minutes, abdominal exercises like bird dogs for 2-4 sets, low back activities like bridges for 2-4 sets, and target problem areas. If there’s a specific problem area, such as shoulders, add in activities of strength and mobility for that particular area.

Performance warm-up goals are to maximize the actions used during training. These warm-ups are not usually used for general fitness but are more geared towards sports or high power and strength training. They have a general movement phase, a movement-specific phase, and a neural-specific phase.

These are not the only way, these are just way.

Make them fun and engaging. Switch them up. Mix and match.

Don’t Hit It and Quit It

Don’t forget about cooldowns!

They should also not be skipped!

The cooldown gradually brings the body back to normal, where it was before exercise. It typically involves low-intensity, large muscle groups through their full range of motion.

Cooldowns help prevent blood pooling, promotes venous blood return, reduces blood and muscle lactate, and reduces the risk of cardiac irregularities after exercise. It can also help with DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, because it continues to promote oxygen to the tissues that were placed under stress during the exercise.

Walking can be used as a cool down. Lunges or lunges with a rotation can then be used for mobility. Foam rolling can be utilized. Static stretches can be done here, holding for 10-30 seconds. Static stretches are typically saved for after as it can reduce power when they’re done before the workout.

If you’re familiar with yoga, Savasana is the final pose after the cool down. As well as letting your heart rate and breath return to normal, it’s a chance for your body to soak in all the benefits of your practice and bring awareness (meditate).

I’ll throw in an extra nugget of information. When you workout, you release endorphins (they make you feel good). In the West, we’re very go-go-go and want instant gratification. The savasana, the sitting with it, allows you to experience all of this without immediately using them up for the next thing.

Ready to get out there and Do Your Next Work Out?

Warm-ups and cooldowns make a huge difference. There are so many benefits to doing them physically and mentally.

Take the extra couple of minutes to add them in. You won’t regret it.

Try out a few different variations and keep a few of your favorites in your back pocket. Some days might require a different focus.

Love your body. Love your mind. Appreciate them and take care of them. 

All content and information on this website are for informational and educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a medical professional or healthcare provider in the area of your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any health, medical, or other related lifestyle, changes, or decisions.

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References: NCSF Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Textbook

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