• Nicola Dale

Warm Ups – Why they’re Essential and What You Should Include

Most of us have been guilty of skipping a warm up. It’s tempting to get straight on with the workout when that’s where the results come from right? Wrong! Warming up is a vital part of your workouts and will help you progress quicker, getting you better results. Here’s why:

Group Class stretching for their warm up

1. Mentally prepares you for the work ahead

Have you ever started a workout feeling meh and lacking motivation to put your all into it? Warming up gives you time to get in the correct headspace and psych yourself up to give it your all. It’s a time to gradually build up the intensity so that it doesn’t feel so tough when you start the workout.

Furthermore, I hear a great piece of advice on the Ben Coomber Radio Podcast which suggested on days you’re not feeling great and you’re not sure if it’s your body telling you it needs rest or if it’s more of a mental block then just start warming up. You’ll either feel too tired to even warm up, thus you now know you need a rest day or once you get going your headspace will switch and you’ll feel ready to workout.

2. Increases circulation and heart rate

Warming up gradually ramps up the bodies internal systems. Your heart rate and circulation increases enabling more oxygen to reach your muscles, preparing your body for the higher intensity work to follow.

3. Increases body temperature and blood flow to muscles

Ever noticed how much stiffer you feel in the morning? That’s because you’ve been still all night and your muscles need time to loosen up again. Similarly, before a workout you want to warm up your muscles and get the blood flowing to them so they limber up ready to work hard. This will help reduce your risk of injury and the prevent overuse injuries by allowing your body to steadily and properly prepare itself.

3 women sprinting together

4. Improves performance

As mentioned above warming up loosens up your muscles meaning you’re able to move with more ease enabling you to perform better. As well as this, during an efficient warm up your nerve to muscle connections are activated and primed and your range of motion is increased. This will help you perform with greater flexibility, strength, power and speed, meaning you’ll get more out of your workouts and they’ll be more efficient.

What to Include in your Warm Up?

1. Gentle Cardiovascular Movement – think the cardio machines at the gym, a brisk walk or jumping movements (jogging on the spot, star jumps and high knees). Any rhythmical movements that get your heart rate and body temperature up. But don’t go too hard, it shouldn’t tire you out before the rest of your workout.

2. Dynamic Stretches – This is where you’re focusing on mobilising the entire body, don’t just focus on the body part(s) you’re training that day. Choose 4 or 5 dynamic stretches/mobility drills that work different muscles groups. Some of my favourites are; downward dog peddles, cat cow, squat with scapular rotation, T-Spine rotations, low lunges with reaches, walk outs, hip CARs and bird dogs.

3. Workout Specific Movements – Here you focus on drills that will help you with the specific work ahead. For example, before I load the bar for a barbell back squat I’ll do 1 or 2 sets of 12-20reps with just the bar. Or if it’s a shoulder workout and my shoulders are feeling tight I’ll add in extra shoulder mobility drills to help with that. If you’re playing a sport you might run through specific speed and power drills that will help with your sport. Basically, anything that’s going to help you perform better in your workout. In terms of bodyweight/minimal resistance workouts at home, this is less important as long as you have effectively followed the first two steps.

If you’re interested in trying Weightlifting go and read yourself; So, You Want to Start Lifting and the 6 Foundational Movement Patterns.

Example Warm Up for a leg session with a focus on barbell back squats:

1. 5mins Inclined walk on the treadmill

2. Bird Dogs x10per side, Hip CARs x8per side, Cat Cow x8, Downward Dog Peddles x20

3. Squat to Hamstring Stretch 2x10, Bodyweight Squats x15, Unloaded Barbell Back Squats x15

Example Warm Up for a bodyweight upper body workout:

1. 3-5mins switching between jumping jacks and walk outs

2. Squat with scapular rotation (arm circles) x10each direction, T-Spine rotations x8per side, Low Lunge with Reach x5per side, Bird Dogs x10per side, Lateral Bends x5per side

3. Add in extra upper body mobility if you feel tight anywhere, if not start workout.

For a full body warm-up flow, which will raise your heart rate at the same time as mobilising your muscles, and a video demo check out the post; A little Intro to Me & My Go To 5 Min Warm Up.

And that’s it. So, next time you think about skipping your warm-up remind yourself how much better off you’ll have been for it.

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