Ahhh yes, the good old warm-up. Definitely one of our dearest exercise traditions… or rituals.
But after hearing about how some of our traditions, like stretching, may not be so great after all, should we reconsider warm-ups?
First of all, why do we do it?
“To get ready for some sort of activity”, one might answer.
But why do you need to get ready? Why not just go ahead and do it?
Because you’re looking to prevent injuries, improve your flexibility, and improve your performance. It supposedly does so by switching your blood flow from internal organs like those in your digestive system, to your muscular system. Warming up is also thought to get adrenaline going, increasing your energy. Finally, warming up should literally raise the temperature of your body.
But does warming up actually give you the benefits it is supposed to?
I did a little reading, and it seems the research isn’t entirely clear on this subject 1, 2. However, the consensus seems to point in a positive direction, and there doesn’t seem to be any problems with warming up either.
Therefore, I recommend warming up!
So why do warm-ups seem good but stretching isn’t?
Well, first of all, despite popular belief, stretching does not ‘warm you up’. How could it possibly? Think about that.
Besides, I think warming up makes sense physiologically. Flip that ‘sympathetic switch’ and improve blood flow to the muscles, get some adrenaline going, etc?
Makes sense to me.
Ever see the movie ‘Zombieland‘? My favorite quote by Woody Harrelson’s character:
“You ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?”
Good point! Lions, or any animals, don’t stretch before they do something vigorous. And they do the craziest stuff. I love animal examples… animals don’t over-think things like we do. We can learn a lot from them.
However, if you ever watch one of those nature programs, you do see lions having to slowly crawl toward their prey. There is no way that isn’t acting as a warm-up / psych-up.
But on the flip side, if you are the animal being attacked, you didn’t get a warm up either! However, I’m sure the body manages fine, drawing upon every emergency system it has. If we needed to warm up to run fast, that wouldn’t make much sense. But when we go exercise voluntarily, it’s unlikely that we draw upon those emergency systems.
Seems warming up is a good idea, but not necessarily something you have to do.
Personally, I think a 10 minute warm up is worth the time. If it might give me the possibility of avoiding a muscle strain, as well as the possibility of improving my performance, I’ll take it. Even if it only offers a small effect, 10 minutes is not a long time.
So how should I do it?
Again, keep it specific. You certainly want to warm up the muscles that you are going to be using. But what you really need to do is warm up the movements you are going to be using. Instead of trying to think of every possible muscle you should warm up, just make your warm up resemble what you are going to do.
If you sprint, then warm up with a slow jog.
If you dance, then do your dance movements slowly.
Start with something easy, and work your way up to more difficult/intense movements. Make sure you go through the full range of motion of these movements.
If you are unsure what to do, then just do some very basic movements that generally warm up most of the muscles in the body. For legs, a jog is okay, but also try some deep lunges, forward and back, side to side. For arms, try push-ups against a wall, jump (cheat) pull-ups, etc. Just a few of each (don’t blow all of your energy), enough to get the blood pumping.
-My suggestion for a good BBoy warm-up.
-Common warm-ups for dancers of all sorts.
Hope you find this information helpful.