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The Importance of a Good Warm Up

But do we really understand why we should be warming up?

By Nick Amos, Personal Trainer at Caringbah

I'm sure we have all heard this before, “make sure to warm up before you start exercising”. But do we really understand why we should be warming up? A ‘warm up’ or ‘muscle activation’ involves the inclusion of a movement routine prior to your primary exercise set, whether it be a weights session or cardio session. For the ease of this article, I’m going to refer to both a warm up and muscle activation as the umbrella term ‘warm up’.

So what does a warm actually do for us?

Firstly, a good warm up routine prepares our body for the activity ahead. Its primes our body and muscles to be moved through various ranges of motion and perform particular movements that may be out of the norm of our normal day to day movements. Our muscles allow our body to move, they contract and produce a force that moves our joints which then ultimately moves certain limbs of our body. A proper warm up ensures that the muscles are warm and have been primed to be lengthened and shortened through a full range of motion, reducing the risk of injuries occurring during the the exercise. It also promotes blood flow to the muscles being used so that that a greater force can be produced by the muscle quicker and more efficiently (oxygen in the blood is used to help break down energy to provide the power to a muscle).

Injuries are always a concern and a risk when performing exercise so the ability of being able to reduce the risk of injury by performing a proper warm up routine should be considered by everyone. By warming up the muscles and gradually lengthening them with a good warm up routine, we can easily reduce the risk of injury during the exercise following. In particular, the risk of acute injuries such as a muscle strains and overuse injuries are greatly reduced if a proper warm up is done prior to exercise.

Another benefit of a good warm up routine that is often overlooked is the preparation of the mind for the exercise program. Our mind is a muscle that needs to be properly warmed up just like our body. Our mind controls our body so we need to prepare the mind for the activity to allow for the best and most effective outcome, and this comes with a good warm up. This also brings in the idea of the mind-muscle connection. This is where we focus the mind on contracting specific muscles during an exercise to improve the effectiveness and “feel” the exercise more in the targeted area or muscle group. By doing a warm up and focusing on priming particular muscles, we are priming the mind to exercise the muscles and this will result in a better and more targeted workout.

In summary, the importance of a good warm up/muscle activation routine comes down to allowing the body and the mind to be properly prepared for the exercise to follow and to reduce the risk of an injury occurring.

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