If you’re juggling responsibilities and are pressed for time, it’s easy to be a bit impatient and want to get straight into fitness regime, especially if you’re working out at home. It’s still vital to recognise the importance of warming up and cooling down, however. This helps to prepare your body for exercise and assists with your recovery afterwards.
Warming up allows you to exercise more efficiently. It slowly increases the heart rate and helps you avoid injury. This because it stops the intense exercise coming as such a shock to your system.
Depending on whether you prefer to hit the gym or workout at home, you can find four top tips to make sure you’re warming up effectively.
1. Use dynamic movement as a warm-up for exercise
Here are three examples:
- You’re going to jog three miles. First, do some dynamic movements to warm up: walk slowly, gradually speeding up for about five minutes.
- If you’re about to do a set of bench presses. First, bench press a much lighter load — one that is about 50% to 70% lighter than what you’re planning to lift later. Do 2-3 sets of those light bench presses (10-15 repetitions per set).
- You’re going to stretch your leg muscles. First, do some high knee marches and walking lunges to warm up those muscles.
Movements such as arm circles, jumping jacks, and rope skipping are other good dynamic choices for warming up and will help to increase your full range of motion. Low-intensity activity will gradually raise your heart rate and increase blood flow to the muscles. It will also slowly warm up your body’s temperature, so you may even break a little sweat.
2. Perform Static Stretches at the Right Time
Static stretching involves slowly stretching a muscle to its end position and holding it for a short period of time, usually 10-30 seconds. This type of stretching is recommended when cooling down towards the end of your home workout session where the muscles are warm, more elastic and less likely to get injured.
Why not when warming up before exercising? Think of it this way: rubber bands and muscles are similar in that they both have elastic properties. A rubber band that’s too stretchy cannot be pulled back quickly enough to provide a strong “pop.” Likewise, an overly-elastic muscle should work harder to generate the appropriate level of power.
3. Don’t Overstretch When Warming up
It‘s true that you must stretch and hold a muscle beyond its normal length to improve flexibility and prevent the risk of injury.
You shouldn’t, however, stretch to the point of pain, because it could do serious damage: tearing a muscle, spraining a ligament, or dislocating a joint. Only stretch a muscle to a comfortable point and hold for about 15 seconds.
4. Don’t Bounce
This is a common mistake made with stretching. A ballistic stretch uses vigorous momentum, such as rocking a body part back and forth to create a “bouncing” motion. This may make it harder to control the force and range of motion. It’s a recipe for disaster.