“Warming up is my favorite.” Words uttered by no athlete ever. We’re typically so pumped and eager to get to training (or so short on time) that we skimp on the warmup. But taking your body from zero to 100, especially if you sit all day, will not only hamper your training, but it can actually lead to serious injury. Let’s talk more about warming up for a workout and how you can program your pre-game strategy to best work for you.
Warming Up for a Workout: 3 Things to Do
1. Choose a Warmup That Mimics Your Training
If you’re getting ready to train or compete in Olympic weightlifting, then your warmup should grease your shoulders and hips, prepare you to throw things overhead, and incorporate explosiveness. Don’t forget that you can use PowerDot during this time to get even more out of your workout warmup.
If you’re getting after CrossFit, your warmup should prepare you for whatever your WOD will challenge you to. For deadlifts, warm up your hammies. For double-unders, get your heart rate up and be sure to get several reps in for practice. For anything on the pull-up bar, spend time on shoulder mobility.
For sports like football and tennis, getting your heart rate up will be important as will agility. Footwork drills will be in your best interest, as will anything you can perform as a sprint.
Noticing the pattern? In all of these examples, the workout warmup looks like the physical activity to come. Sometimes, athletes think that warming up before a workout is merely stretching a little and maybe running a lap. If that’s what your workout, game, or competition looks like, then okay. Otherwise, you’ll need to be a little more strategic.
Remember, this is going to help your performance and also keep you safe and healthy. There’s nothing worse than jumping up on the pull-up bar to chip away at 50 toes-to-bar when you haven’t spent even two minutes working on shoulder mobility prior.
And speaking of mobility...
2. Don’t Just Stretch — Mobilize
Traditional static stretching mainly works toward your flexibility, and there’s an important difference between flexibility vs mobility. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to lengthen passively through a range of motion. On the other hand, mobility is how well a joint can move actively through a range of motion.
Because physical fitness tends to be active, not passive, mobility is likely more important for your warmup and sport than flexibility is. In fact, in some cases, too much flexibility can hurt. For example, a weightlifter wants to be limber but springy. If they lose too much of that elasticity in their muscles, explosiveness suffers. That’s why these athletes shouldn’t spend too much time on flexibility. (To be clear, for something like yoga, the conversation is different.)
Mobility is important everywhere, but especially for the shoulders and hips. If you’re going to be doing anything overhead, good shoulder mobility matters. Problems in your shoulders can mean problems in your neck and back.
If you’re using your hips in any capacity — which you do very often (squats, deadlifts, burpees, lunges, and so on) — then as you’re warming up for a workout, spend time on hip mobility. This is especially crucial for people who are mostly sedentary. Your hips are a powerhouse and help connect your upper and lower halves. Plus, when we say “hips,” we’re actually referring to many different muscles that might be tiny but are responsible for a lot of work. Troubled hips can lead to issues in your back and knees.
It wouldn’t hurt to incorporate some glute activation exercises, either.
Don’t forget that improved mobility is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only will it help you during fitness, but it’ll benefit you after — with reduced muscle soreness and quicker recovery.
Now is another excellent time to grab your PowerDot, too. Electric muscle stimulation gets your muscle fibers working by helping them to contract. The result is better blood flow, increased activation, improved circulation, and once again, better recovery after the fact.
Truly, recovery starts before you work out, not after. That’s one of the reasons why PowerDot is so helpful.
3. Treat Your Warmup as Part of Your Workout — Because it is
You don’t start when the workout begins or the game kicks off or you step on the competition stage. You start when you begin warming up. This means that when you’re warming up for a workout, you need to take it as seriously as the activity itself.
Pay attention to your body. Listen to what it’s telling you. Are your hips especially tight? Is there a dull but nagging pain in between your shoulders? Do your feet keep catching the edge of the box as you’re warming up your box jumps?
Respond accordingly. Maybe get a mini band and try some monster walks or hip bridges. Grab a lacrosse ball and dig into those sticky spots in your mid-back. Do a few tuck jumps before getting back on the box.
Sometimes, we treat our warmups a little too casually. We’re not telling you to attack them with the same intensity that you’ll apply to your workout, game, or competition. Rather, we’re saying that this time period — even if it’s just 10 minutes — is as important as what’s to come. In fact, this is where it all begins. This is the foundation you’re building to have a successful training session or game ahead.
That leaves us with one final question we want to address.
How Long Should You Spend Warming Up for a Workout?
The answer is this: Long enough.
Frustrating, we know. Let us elaborate.
Because your warmup will be unique to your programming, there’s no rule of thumb or one-size-fits-all approach. For example, a CrossFitter may need more time warming up if their WOD includes 10 different movements, compared to a bodybuilder who’s about to tackle leg day.
Generally, if you’re spending three minutes warming up for a workout, odds are this isn’t enough. However, if you’re at it for 45 minutes, you might be doing more harm than good. For instance, in one study involving cyclists published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that shorters, less intense warmups were the best bet.
And as we’ve already touched on, you may want to avoid too much stretching in particular. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that intensive stretching like lower body passive static stretching can be detrimental to squatting, and an active dynamic warmup using resistance is more beneficial.
While we can’t tell you the exact warmup you need, the key takeaways are these:
- Warm up how you’re going to train.
- Prioritize mobility and active/dynamic stretching over passive stretching for mere flexibility.
- Warm up as seriously as you train/compete.
- Aim for 10 minutes and then reevaluate to see how prepared your body feels (or doesn’t feel).
- Incorporate an electric muscle stimulation device like PowerDot to amplify the effects of your warmup even more.
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