If you’ve never lived in a cold climate you might not understand the importance of warming up your car before driving it in the winter. Those of us that grew up this way can tell you how essential it is. It might be below zero outside, but with just a few minutes of warming up, the car will run more safely and efficiently, you’re more likely to get to your destination, and those inside the car will be much happier. The same holds true for our bodies. Warming up before your workout is essential! According to the Mayo Clinic, a warm-up not only provides you with a safer workout, but a more effective one as well. A proper warm-up is NOT a waste of time. Let’s take a look at the most common mistakes most people make when warming up for their workout.
Mistake #1: Skipping The Warm Up Altogether
Sometimes when we’re eager to get our workout over with, we just want to get to it! The warm-up can seem tedious, and we view it as taking up important time that could be spent burning fat during our workout. So you might be surprised to know that you are, indeed, burning fat during your warm-up. Not at the same rate as your workout of course, but burning nevertheless. Aside from that additional fat burn, there are many reasons why warm-ups are NOT a waste of your time! Look at all the benefits a warm-up provides:
- Mobilizes your joints
- Activates and prepares your muscles
- Prevents injury during your workout
- Promotes better blood flow and circulation
- Prepares you mentally for your workout
Mistake #2: Static Stretching
Static stretching, or holding a stretch, is an excellent idea… for the END of your workout. This stretch provides little to no benefit pre-workout and some studies have shown it can actually be detrimental to athletic performance. When you are finished with your workout, that’s when you want to do some static stretches that last anywhere from 30-60 seconds each. (In other words, the 10 sec stretches many of us do don’t count!)
Mistake #3: Ballistic Stretching
Inspired by misguided gym teachers everywhere, ballistic stretching became part of warm-up routines for many people decades ago. Ballistic stretching involves fast “bouncing” movements in a stretched position when the muscle has not relaxed enough to enter it. Basically you bounce in and out of a stretched position to try and force a deeper range of motion. (Think 80s aerobic classes or bouncing in a runners lunge.)This is not useful and actually often leads to injury!
The Solution: Dynamic Warm-Ups
Through exercise science, we know the best warm up is a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm-up means moving your joints through their range of motion, activating your muscles and moving in all planes of motion. Before you begin an intense workout (including any high impact work,) it’s important to go through a full-body dynamic warm-up. The length of the warm-up is usually around 5-10 minutes. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for your workout—just getting everything used to the upcoming exercise. You want to use large range of motion movements to start the synovial fluid moving in your joints and blood pumping in the muscles.
Our 7-Move Dynamic Warm-Up
Here are seven moves to warm and prep your muscles, tendons, joints and fascia for your upcoming workout. In addition, by using all planes of motion (forward/backward; side to side; and twisting) you’ll also wake up your brain and begin your workout with improved mental focus.
1. Arm Circles
Start standing with feet hip-width apart and stretch your arms straight out to the sides. Make small arms circles forward and gradually get bigger and bigger until you are making a full range of motion circles. After one minute, switch direction. Go into small backward circles then get bigger and bigger. Keep abs tight the entire time.
2. Hip Circles
Start standing with feet hip-width apart and arms extended or hands on your hips. Lift your right knee up and circle it inward, around to the outside of body and down, like you’re dragging your leg over a hurdle. Then do the same with the left. After 10-12 circles switch directions and circle the knee out, around and inward.
3. Down Dog With Bicycle Feet
Begin in a downward dog position with hands on the floor shoulder width apart, hips high in the air and feet on the floor behind you hip-width apart. Keep hands spread open, pressing them into the floor to move your chest toward your thighs. Gently press heels one at a time toward the floor for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
4. Lateral Side Reaches
Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and arms at your sides. Reach right hand over your head bending toward the left as you, keep your left hand sliding down your leg and slightly bend sideways as you reach. Be sure to press right foot down firmly. Return to center and repeat with left hand.
5. Moving Side Squats
Stand with feet together and arms in front of chest with elbows bent. Simultaneously step your right foot to the right and sit back into a squat. Now rise to standing and pull left foot to right foot. Repeat several times moving laterally to the right. Now switch. Step the left foot out to the left as you squat and stand back up pulling the right foot in. Repeat several times moving left.
6. Reverse Lunges With Arm Arcs
Stand with feet 6 inches apart and arms high. Step right foot back, lowering the right knee into lunge position while at the same time open your arms out to the side. Step the right back back to the front as you bring your arms back up. Then switch to left foot and left arm. Continue stepping back into the lunge right and left 10-12 times.
7. Glute Bridges
Lay on your back with feet hip-width apart and arms by your side. Squeeze your glutes and abdominals as you press your hips up into a bridge position. Slowly lower back down and repeat. Lift and lower 10 times. Keep your head and neck relaxed.
And now you’re ready to tackle that workout injury-free with warmed up muscles, improved circulation, and sharper mental focus!