5 Reasons Why Warm-Ups Really Are That Important

·2-min read
Photo credit: Carrastock
Photo credit: Carrastock

To warm-up, or not to warm-up? That is the question. Luckily, it's a question we have the answer to. Better than that, we've provided five good reasons why you should always warm-up.

BRING THE HEAT

‘A warm-up does exactly that,’ says exercise physiologist Tom Cowan. ‘It increases the temperature of the working muscles, which improves high-intensity exercise performance.’ Active heating – warming muscles through movement – helps generate more force and makes better use of muscle glycogen. Passive heating – a heat pad, for example – has some impact, but won’t offer the full range of benefits.

PUMP IT UP

At rest, the muscles receive 20% of blood flow, with most directed to your organs. In maximal exercise, 80% can go to working muscles, says Cowan. Go in cold and your body is playing catch-up as it tries to make circulatory and metabolic adjustments. ‘Research suggests that active warm-ups lead to less reliance on anaerobic energy systems,’ he adds. This could mean less fatigue-inducing muscle acidity.

HAVE SOME HEART

‘Going from 60 beats per minute to 120 is a big jump in workload for your heart,’ says Cowan. And this is combined with an increase in blood pressure, another side effect of exercise. A steady rise in both through a graduated warm-up – rather than a sudden spike by diving headlong into a strenuous set of barbell cleans – may make your training session a little bit longer, but it will get a tick from your ticker.

JOINTS VENTURE

Dynamic stretches can improve range of motion at your joints, as well as priming muscles. Plyometric moves such as box jumps need powerful contractions, so it’s important your body gets fair warning. ‘Evidence suggests that dynamic stretching may boost power output,’ says Cowan. Think inchworms rather than a standing hamstring stretch. Save the latter for after your cool-down.

TRICKS OF THE MIND

‘Your warm-up is when you can switch off from what you were doing and turn your full attention to the workout,’ says Cowan. They generally have a positive effect on your confidence in your ability to perform. ‘It’s also a chance to practise sport-specific movement patterns or skills.’ Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of motion before the real work starts. Now go get ’em.

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