Warm ups are especially important for a variety of reasons. They can keep you healthy, prepare your body for your work out, and get you mentally prepared for your time in the gym. But your warm up shouldn’t be walking into the gym doing a handful of stretches and it also shouldn’t take 45 minutes before you even lift your first weight. So, what should it be?
Each individual presents a different way. We have different postures, different movement capabilities, different past medical histories, different strengths and weaknesses, and plenty of other differences. That’s why a portion of your warm up should be specific to you. Addressing our own personal limitations early in the warm up can allow us to have long term successes. If there was an individual beginning to work out after an ankle fracture, they may begin their warm up with additional mobility exercises on the affected joint. That specific joint exercise may not be necessary for others. But for that specific individual, the additional mobility exercises could allow them to perform squats, lunges, and jumps without compensation at other areas of the body.
Progressing from localized movements to global movements allows the joints to work successfully independently and when integrated in compound movements. The localized joint warm up should probably be the least time consuming aspect of your warm up, but paying small attention to areas of need could go a long way.
Increasing your overall body temperature is the most self explanatory portion of the ‘warm’ up. Increasing blood flow and body temperature allows you to be sufficiently prepared for the more intense portion of your workout.
A focus on movement quality should be the most time consuming and intent driven portion of your warm up. A focus on movement quality will drive neural adaptation and preparation for loading the movement. This is also the portion of the warm up where you should introduce new movements. For example, if you are working to start incorporating a single leg squat into your workout, you could begin by implementing modified versions of the single leg squat into your warm up.
Preparing your body for the upcoming workout is arguably the most important aspect of your warm up. This includes preparing specific body parts, incorporating modified movements, and beginning to load the tissues and patterns so that they are prepared for the more intense workout. For instance, on a day where a push press is programmed in your workout, a warm up may include a yoga push up or another overhead stability exercise.
As sports and orthopedic physical therapists, we emphasize the importance of a good warm up, especially after a traditional rehab plan. Most ‘corrective’ exercises or rehab exercises are appropriate to be placed in the warm up because they are typically designed specific to your body, past medical history, and goals. Understanding the importance of a warm up also highlights why it’s important to also have a good strength coach or trainer in your corner. If you have any questions about warm ups or the rehabilitation process, please contact us at email@example.com