You have probably heard somewhere that warming up is absolutely essential, because otherwise you would risk getting injured. And you have probably also heard that warming up is just a waste of time, because it doesn`t offer any benefits. But are those statements actually true? And what does exercise science tell us about it?
The truth lies probably somewhere in the middle. You can think of warming up as the starter of a 3-course meal: it`s not as important as the main course, but it definitely adds to the experience of the entire meal.
The question still remains though: what benefits can warming up have? And how can we incorporate it effectively and efficiently into our training program?
Warming up – why bother?
Warming up isn`t just about avoiding injuries. There are several reasons why warming up can be beneficial:
1. The mental aspect
The warm up offers a great way to get into the “training mindset”. Especially after a stressful day it`s a great opportunity to let go what has happened and to focus on the task that lies ahead. One way to go about it is to mentally go through your training program, what exercises you want to do and what you want to focus on.
2. Increased Performance
A good warm up will increase your body temperature. It helps “start the engine” so to speak. Via many different pathways this increase in body temperature has a positive effect on our performance, which adds to the effectiveness of our training.
3. Movement Preparation
Ideally warming up isn`t just about sitting on a bike station for 10 minutes. A good warm up also prepares us for the upcoming movement task and thus helps us to complete the exercise in a technically efficient manner.
4. Injury prevention
There is actually relatively little evidence concerning warming up and injury prevention. However, despite the mixed results of the literature, this is still an aspect that is worth pointing out. Since warming up has several other benefits (as you have just learned), we can take advantage of any other potential benefits that come with it, even when the scientific evidence isn`t quite clear about it yet.
Warming up – how to
Now that we know that taking a few moments to warm up can be beneficial, we can look at how to incorporate it into our training program. The good news: warming up doesn`t have to be long nor does it have to be complex. In most cases 10-15 minutes are plenty to reap all of its benefits. As a quick reminder, there are primarily three things we want to achieve with warming up: prepare us mentally, increase our body temperature and make sure we can execute the following exercise efficiently.
This is how it could look in the trenches:
1.) 5-10 min. general warm up: “General” means that this part of the warm up can be different from the exercises of the actual training program. The goal of this part of the warm up is to increase the temperature of our body and prepare us mentally for training. Movements that involve large parts of the body like walking/jogging, riding the bike, rowing, rope jumping etc. are all good choices.
2.) 5-10 min. specific warm up: “Specific” means that the movements we do are similar or identical to the exercise we do in the actual training program. Thus, this part of the warm up functions primarily as a specific preparation for the actual training. To keep it simple, we don`t have to do any special mobility exercises*. So for example, if our programs calls for the leg press as our first exercise, we can simply start with a very light warm up set on that exercise. After about 30 to 60 seconds of rest, we increase the weight and do our next warm up set. We repeat this process until we reach a weight we want to use for our working sets. In most cases 3 to 5 warm up sets are plenty.
*In some cases, special preparatory exercises can make sense, they should be chosen individually though. Please don`t hesitate to ask one of our trainers – they are happy to help you out!
Warming up is a good idea! It doesn`t have to be long or complicated though. As long as it gets you warm, prepares you mentally for the upcoming training and makes sure, that you can do the exercises in your program with good and efficient technique, you are good to go!
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If you have any question, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me.