There has been debate in the fitness and strength and conditioning world about warming up before exercise. Let me see if I can shed some light on this controversy, speaking from not only my own personal experiences but also from what I know as an exercise professional as well as from my observations of colleagues who work with elite athletes.
The fact is that all of people I know, many of who are leaders in the field of health and fitness, include some sort of warm up in their training sessions. If you go into any Division 1 strength training facility in the US and watch the teams train, you would also see they do some type of warm up before commencing to the more intense parts of their workout session.
So if it’s good enough for the best athletes, why shouldn’t the rest of us being doing it?
What Is a Warm Up?
A well designed warm-up can be done in 10-15 minutes and there is an inverse relationship between the intensity of the activity to come and the intensity / duration of the warm up. For example, if running a marathon, your warm up does not need to be as intense as what you go through during the marathon. Some for example may even use the first few miles of the marathon as their warm up. On the other hand, if you are doing a more intense activity, especially with a lot of sudden starts and stops (like tennis for example) then your warm up should be more intense and longer than the average person. This will help reduce injuries.
Why Should I Warm Up?
Here are some of the reasons you should be including some form of a warm-up exercises prior to the your more intense training.
- Raises body core temperature
- Improves movement and mobility
- Readies the central nervous system for more intense work
- Warms up muscles and connective tissues of the body
- Increases synovial fluid viscosity allowing more free movements
What should a warm up include? This all depends on your goals and how much time you can devote to the warm up. At the minimum I would say a general warm up (light jogging etc.) of 4-5 minutes followed by a dynamic warm up of mobility and movement preparation exercises would be the least you should do.
Notice the difference between the general warm up and the dynamic warm up. A general warm up is general and vague. It's meant to prepare the body for harder work. Contrast this with a dynamic warm up which is more focused and fine-tuned to what you would be doing. For example, if you were going to play tennis, a dynamic warm up might include some easy hits with the tennis racquet for a few minutes.
If you want to truly maximize your training and recovery I would say that self myofascial release (SMR) by using foam rollers as well as stretching before mobility / movement work would be an optimum warm up.
So if you really want to maximize your training and improve your sports performance, you really should be warming up before exercise. The specifics are best left to a trainers and strength coaches who know what they’re doing. But you are deluding yourself – especially if your over 40 – if you think you can get away without warming up. Eventually, your body will bring you to your senses. Trust me.
Train hard and train smart!
Bruce Kelly MS CSCS is a personal trainer, strength coach and the owner of Fitness Together in Media Pa.
Check him out on the web at: http://fitnesstogether.com/media for all of his links other information.