Tuesday, November 14, 2017 7:32 PM

Why Should I Warm Up Before Exercising?

Being an endurance athlete for a large portion of my life, I am very used to warming up before workouts and races.  However, there have been a few times in my endurance sports career where for whatever reason I showed up at the starting line arriving just in time for my race start and way too late for any kind of warm up.  What a game changer this can be.  The same can be said about your workout if you skip your warm up! 
 

What does a good warm up consist of?

For me, a good warm up varies depending on what the demands of my pending physical activity might be. If I am going to work a back and bicep day in the gym, I need to target the muscles I will be using. 
 
Sticking to this example, I usually start out with light rowing on the rowing machine and gradually increase intensity over the next 10 minutes or so.  Once the blood is pumping, I then stretch the muscle groups I’m planning to use for another 5 minutes.  From there, I do a light set of compounding movement to work the majority of muscles I will be pounding iron with during my workout. 

For a back and bicep day, I might use the assisted pull-up machine to compensate for half my body weight and do a set of 12-15 reps.  My total warm-up time is usually about 20 minutes. 
 

Physiologically what happens when you warm up?

 

How Warm ups Affect Your Cardiovascular System

Think of this as priming the pump.  The idea is to gradually bring the heart rate up and increase circulation.  Think of your bloodstream as a vital pipeline of oxygen and nutrients, both of which fuel your working muscles and remove the by-products of that spent fuel!  Once you are warmed up, those vessels dilate or open up.  How much more efficient do you think your muscles are going to work once those blood vessels are dilated? Imagine the difference between a garden hose and a fire hose! 
 

How Warm ups Affect Your Muscular System

As circulation and internal temperature rise, the muscles you are going to work are being prepared for the intended movements to be performed.  This is also where stretching comes into play and is a very useful tool in helping to prevent injuries as well as help increase performance.  It is quite simple really: the more pliable the muscles are, then you increase your range of motion and the ability of your joints to move freely.
 

How Warm ups Affect Cognitive Function

A good warm-up is a great time to get your mind right!  Think of the above scenario and showing up right as the gun is about to go off to start my race.  What kind of a hot mess do you think I was?  How long do you think it took me to get my head in the game and focus on the task at hand?  Let’s just say rolling fresh out of the car and making my heart rate go from zero to 60 in a matter of seconds didn’t work out so well for me. 

The pain from the race pace came on immediately instead of gradually as it should, and as soon as it did my inner voice was doing nothing but complaining and crying, “What am I doing?!?!?”,  What was I thinking?!?!”,  “My legs feel so heavy!”, “This is horrible and we haven’t even hit the climb yet!!!”  You get the idea.  It was not my finest hour, shall we say.  Trust me, a negative mindset from the gun is not going to be an advantage on race day. 
 
The same thing can be seen in the gym.  How many times have you been short on time and jumped right into a workout?  Did that barbell feel a bit heavier than usual?  Did that initial bad set effect you between the ears and make you question what you had under the hood that day?  I bet it did.  I know I have been there! 
 

Warm Up Before You Get Moving

I know life can move pretty fast and time is often as precious as gold, but don’t be afraid to take the time to warm up properly.  I think you will see your workouts improve if you do.  Don’t forget, better workouts correlate to better gains and who doesn’t want to see gains?!?!?

By Tim Clark
Manager of Fitness Center