Getting in a proper warm up is often one of the most overlooked and under-utilized aspects of a training program. The warm up is a great time to prepare the body for physically challenging activities while getting in some important assistance work to correct muscle imbalances and prevent the risk of an injury during a training session. A warm up generally consists of low intensity activity followed by increasingly demanding activity that is similar and specific to the activity being performed in the workout. Instead of spending 2 minutes on the treadmill followed by a few swings of the arms before your next bench and biceps session remember the following list of physiological benefits to a warm up:
1. Increase Core Temperature: Increasing the temperature of the body helps the circulatory system pump blood filled with oxygen all over the body, preparing the muscles and cardiovascular system for increasingly challenging tasks. Hemoglobin releases oxygen much easier at higher temperatures.
2. Increase Muscle Temperature: This increases the speed of muscle contractions as well as blood and nutrient flow to muscles. Having better oxygen flow and nutrient flow will keep you working out longer and harder.
3. Increased blood flow: Just as stated in each example above, working muscles and organs need blood flow to perform their tasks. This increase of blood flow due to increasing workout intensity helps the body perform the tasks at hand.
4. Increased Muscle Pliability: With the increased temperature and blood flood the muscles more easily stretch and return to normal lengths.
5. Greater Movement Economy: In other words, moving becomes easier as viscous resistance (blood flow resistance) decreases within a warmed muscle.
6. Increased Metabolism: Due to increasing body temperature and metabolic demand the metabolic system responds by more efficiently removing blood lactate following high intensity, shorter duration bouts of exercise.
7. Prim the nervous system: Performing increasingly challenging and explosive exercises “wakes up” the nervous system to take on challenging, explosive tasks. This will increase your rate of force development (RFD), in other words how quickly you can go from standing still jumping out of the way of a moving car (if needed).
8. Improved coordination and reaction timing: This takes place as a result of the nervous system being primed for activity.
9. Increased motivation and cognitive clarity: Due to the increased blood flow and thoughts of the upcoming workout, motivation, clarity of goals and intensity will all be higher during the workout.
Warming up should be simple and is not meant to leave you gasping for air. Your goal is to break a light sweat and increase the blood flow to your muscles and organs to prepare for the workout ahead. Your warm up will only take 5-15 minutes and will have a profoundly positive effect on the quality of your workouts. Stay tuned for part two which will cover the vital components of a warm up to prepare you for more efficient, productive workouts.
Please share if and how you warm up before your workouts!
Copyright 2012 by Eric R Bach. All rights reserved. This material may not be duplicated or distributed without written consent from the author.