It’s no secret anymore, experts say the key to both physical and mental health is an active lifestyle.
Various studies have shown that exercise is more effective than anti-depressants for depression and anxiety. An active lifestyle is thought to not only add years to one’s life but to also add quality to those years.
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However, you can’t lead an active lifestyle if you’re injured. Here’s where the importance of warm-up exercises comes in to improve your life.
Why Warm Up?
Muscles are similar to rubber bands. A cold, stiff rubber band tends to snap when it’s pulled. The same goes for your muscles. In which inevitably are cool and stiff after a day of sitting in the office or driving the commute.
However, a warm, loose rubber band can stretch much farther. Your muscles act in a similar way. Once they are warmed up, they are able to handle much more movement without snapping.
This means fewer injuries and more of that enriching, active lifestyle you desire.
Aerobic, Dynamic, and Static Routines
Warm-up exercises tend to fall into three categories: aerobic, dynamic stretching, and static stretching. All of these methods have benefits and ideally will be part of your routine.
The purpose of an aerobic routine is to get your heart rate going and increase your body’s core temperature.
You usually start the sweating process during this phase. This routine makes the muscles more malleable and is an essential step before any stretching or exercising occurs.
It’s generally recommended to have five to 10 minutes of aerobic warming up.
Dynamic stretches also involve movement, but they target repetitive use of certain muscle groups.
This primes the body for coordination in the targeted areas. The muscle groups worked during the warming process should align with the main workout activity.
For instance, a weightlifter on leg day would do a series of movements that involve the legs. This phase of the routine usually lasts five to 15 minutes.
Static stretches increase the range of motion and are more important for some workouts than others.
Someone preparing to run would not need as much range of motion as someone preparing to play tennis.
Static stretches are held for at least 60 seconds and involve stretching slightly past the body’s comfort level.
Do The Stretching
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While static stretching, if done properly, lessens injury potential, it also tends to inhibit reflexes.
It’s important not to over-emphasize static stretching and to only perform it when muscles are warm.
Some exercisers prefer to do this type of stretching after a workout instead of before, which works as well. These stretches are usually done for about five minutes.
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The Moves You Need To Know
The following are 10 specific warm-up exercises you must know to keep yourself active and injury-free.
Each description includes whether the routine is aerobic, dynamic, or static. Mix and match them to keep your warm-up exercises interesting and effective.
Warm up exercises
If you have access to a track outside or at the gym, five minutes of jogging is a great aerobic practice to get you sweating. Throw on some tunes and get yourself pumped up. If there isn’t a running track available, jogging in place has the same effect.
Stationary bikes are an excellent aerobic method to get your heart pumping. Especially if your workout will involve a lot of leg movements. This is a good way to get those lower muscles warmed up. An alternative to stationary cycling would be a five-minute bike ride to the gym if you are fortunate enough to live nearby.
Strengthen Your Legs
3. Jumping Jacks
Defying gravity is a more intense way to get warmed up aerobically. Intervals of 20 to 30 seconds work well. Be sure to fully extend your arms to have the most effective form. This can be substituted with jumping rope for a similar effect.
Now it’s time to get into some dynamic stretches. Lunges are great for loosening up the legs, hip flexors, and glutes. To lunge, you step forward with one foot, while not letting your knee extend beyond that foot. You then lower yourself toward the ground.
The deeper you sink down, the more intense the stretch will feel.
This is a move that can be easily modified for more challenge, such as twisting the upper body to one side or lifting both arms while in the lunge position.
Try for five reps on both sides.
Do The Walk
5. Frog Walk-In
This is another good dynamic stretch for the hips and hamstrings while working your arms and core to keep you stable.
Start in a push-up position, then bring one foot up to rest on the outside of your hand. Lean into the stretch, then return to the original position.
Repeat on the other side. Go for five reps on each side. For an extra challenge, you can raise up your arm and twist your upper body to the sky on the same side you brought your foot up.
Warm Up Your Arms
6. Arm Circles
If you need to warm up your arms, dynamic arm circles are a must. Stand straight while keeping your feet a shoulder-width apart.
Now rotate your arms forward in large circles. Do this for 30 seconds, then reverse the rotation for another 30 seconds.
7. Arm Swings
This is another fun dynamic stretch that is great for the back and chest.
Begin with your arms crossed as though you’re hugging yourself. Then release and open your arms as though you were going to hug someone else.
Repeat this for 30 to 45 seconds while trying to pull your arms back further each time you uncross your arms.
Stretching Your Side and Back
8. Standing Side Crunch
This dynamic stretch gets a lot of muscle groups working.
Start by standing with your feet a shoulder width apart with your hands behind your head and elbows out to the sides.
Now raise your right knee up to your right elbow to feel a crunch.
Repeat on the opposite side. Do this for about 60 seconds to get your core and legs warmed up.
9. Butterfly Stretch
This one stretches the groin. Sit on the ground with your back straight and your feet together with knees bent, so as to form a butterfly shape.
Put your hands on your feet and ankles. Press your elbows to your knees to push them apart while leaning your torso forward.
Try to keep your back straight for the most effectiveness. Remember to hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds. Do at least two reps.
10. Back Twist
This is for your lower back and feels great. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right leg and cross it over the other leg so that your right foot is on the outside of your left knee.
Keep your right hand on the floor, but place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and push gently so that you feel your torso twist and your back stretch.
Hold 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Go for two reps on each side.
Creating a Routine
Keep in mind, you won’t be doing all 10 of these in one session. You need energy for your main workout, after all. Depending on how much time you have, your overall warm-up exercises should fall between five to 15 minutes.
If your main workout will not involve much cardio, you may want a warm-up that is heavier in cardio and lighter on the stretches.
What Warm-up Exercises Best For You
If your main workout will have a lot of cardio and lots of sudden shifts in movement, such as basketball. It would be a good idea to involve a lot more dynamic stretches and consider saving static stretches for the end of the session or another day entirely as they can diminish reflexes.
Try to gear dynamic warm-up movements toward the muscle groups you will use during the workout.
You can pick and choose a few movements in each category and devote the appropriate amount of time. The more often you do this, the more natural it will become to you.
Putting Everything Into Practice
Despite all this knowledge about warm-up exercises and which stretches are the best, the truth is, the best warm-up exercise is one you stick to consistently.
Try out various combinations and find which ones you like. Maybe jumping gives you a headache. Cycle instead.
This article gives you some great information to have in your toolbox to build upon.
As you gain confidence, explore resources for more stretches to try such as the internet, fitness magazines, or talking to gym staff. Remember to take things slowly and gently as you adjust to new movements.
Pushing your boundaries should always be done gradually and with caution. The purpose of these routines is to prevent you from being injured, not to injure you.
While the health benefits are great, it’s important to note that many fitness lovers find warming up to be the most invigorating and fun part of the workout.
Now is the time to incorporate these into your workout regimen and see the benefits of this important part of the exercise.