File photo credit: SportSG
Warming up properly before doing sport and exercise is important. Starting at a steady pace and not launching full-on into strenuous exercise prepares your body for the demands of training. A good warm-up not only improves your physical performance, but is also key to your mental preparation as it sharpens your focus on the forthcoming activity.
The right warm-up also reduces the risk of injuries, and can prevent little aches and pains. But warming up does not just mean stretching.
Traditionally, there are two types of warm-ups – static warm-ups and dynamic warm-ups.
This is the process of ‘stretching’ as it is largely understood – the “hold for 20 seconds, now do the other leg” sort of stretch. A lot of people think that just doing this is an adequate warm-up. However, this isn’t true. Remaining in a stationary position means your heart rate doesn’t change, so that it is unprepared for the sudden increase in activity.
Plus, your muscles are cold and inflexible, which is not the best state for stretching them. Recent studies have also discovered that just doing static warms-ups alone before exercise can have a negative effect on your performance, as they actually weaken muscles, which increases the likelihood of you picking up an injury.
These types of “on the spot” stretches are more appropriate for when your muscles are warm and pliable – at the ‘cool down’ stage after exercising, which is another key phase of your training process.
Simply stretching will not prepare you for doing sport and exercise – however intensive you train. Adding a dynamic element to your warm-up is far more effective.
A “warm-up” should be just that. And it ought to do two main things – increase your body’s blood flow, and loosen up your muscles, through a combination of stretching and movement, relative to the sport or activity you are about to undertake. Think of your body as a machine, and this as the stage where you fire it up and coordinate all its parts. Increase your heart rate, the circulation of oxygen in your blood, open up your joints, and prepare all the muscles you’ll be using.
Some general dynamic warm-up exercises include arm swings, shoulder circles, leg swings and lunges.
You will feel the benefits of warming up properly and dynamically as you run, train, swim, and jump. Your body’s strength, stability, flexibility and mobility will already have been tested, which allows you to start training at a high intensity. A dynamic warm-up is an essential beginning for any aerobic or cardiovascular activity.