By Dr. Jessica Warnecke, PT, DPT, OCS
A warm up is essential for any workout or successful athletic play; however, it often gets overlooked or neglected. How many times have you seen a sportsperson show up a few minutes late to a practice or game, and just jumped into the action of the sport without any sort of loosening up? Or seen an athlete in the gym go straight to heavy weightlifting without performing any exercises to prepare their body?
From reaching your max squat in the weight room to playing in that championship basketball game, warm ups are important for all forms of exercise. By adding a five to fifteen minute warm up to your workout, you are not only preparing your body for what it is about to endure, you are preventing a number of injuries that can come along with exercising.
First, let’s establish what constitutes an effective warm up.
Many believe that sitting and doing a few static stretches before working out will be enough; however, this is not the case- in fact, it is the near opposite. Static stretches such as touching your toes or sitting in a “butterfly” stretch should be saved for after a workout. Instead, every workout should begin with dynamic stretches and exercises that get the blood in your body flowing and increase your heart rate.
With a sufficient warm up, the following things in the body occur that help decrease your risk of injury:
By increasing blood flow to your muscles, you are increasing the oxygen available to them. Oxygen will then assist the muscles in carrying out repetitive contractions. In addition, increased blood flow leads to additional nutrients throughout the body that will aid in the performance as well.
A substantial warm up also leads to less friction between your joints, which results in a lower risk of joint injury, less stress on your tendons and ligaments, and an increased range of motion.
Finally, an increased heart rate will help minimize the stress placed on your heart during a strenuous workout.
Of course, one more benefit that results in a proper warm up is given in the name itself. Appropriate warm ups warm up the temperature of your muscles. A muscle with an increased temperature contracts with more force and relaxes quicker. This helps enhance both speed and strength.
Now that you are familiar with what comes with a good warm up, let’s look into what makes one up.
For a full body workout, a basic activity that triggers movement of most major muscle groups, such as jogging, jumping rope, or biking, will help lead to the results of a warm up discussed above. At least one of these activities should be combined with some dynamic stretches. A dynamic warm up involves movements that actively stretch the muscle along with increasing body temperature. Examples of these include karaoke stretch, bringing your knee to your chest, and lunging with a twist.
By taking the time to add activities such as these to your workout, you can help reduce the risk of injury while still getting a healthy amount of exercise in.
For questions or guidance in creating a specific warm-up for your needs, request to speak to a PT below.
Meet Your Therapist
Jessica has been in Austin, TX for the past four years. She grew up in Idaho and attended PT school at Idaho State University. She completed an Orthopaedic Residency and became a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist in 2016.