Ugh, warming up! Do we really need to do it? I want to get straight to the heavy weights! It’s honestly pointless, right?
Skipping the warm up can lead to unnecessary and painful setbacks. You may coast by for a while, but eventually not warming up will get you hurt. Unfortunately many of the people we see day to day in the gym neglect a true and methodical warm up.
The two main reasons I stress the importance of the warm is: injury prevention and weight acclimation.
The first, Injury prevention, an obvious point. Going into the gym, especially this time of year, we often have stiff and cold muscles. Going straight to lifting heavy can lead to tears and strains in cold muscles.
Here are some of the more specific physiological changes that come with a warm up. Your blood temperature rises weakening the bond of oxygen to hemoglobin in your blood allowing oxygen to be more readily available for working muscles. Your blood vessels dilate allowing for an increase in blood flow. Your body increases hormone production in cortisol and epinephrine which help regulate energy production. The core muscle temperature raises, warm muscles contract more forcefully and relax more quickly, reducing the risk of muscle strains or pulls. While also increasing strength and speed. Due to increased blood flow in muscles and ligaments range of motion increases allowing for maximal movement potential.
Warming up properly before every single workout not only plays a role in keeping you injury free, but also allows for maximal potential in said workout.
The second reason, weight acclimation, is less obvious. It is essentially getting used to the “heaviness” of the weight before jumping straight to our working sets.
Jumping straight to the weight we’re going to use can make it feel significantly more heavy than it should. We are simply not ready both mentally and physically to jump straight to it. It’s important to build to the weight you plan on using with intelligent and small jumps to allow you to prepare physically and mentally to lift it!
When I say warm up, I don’t mean stretching.
Static stretching has its time and place, but before lifting is not it. Static stretching can lead to an overall reduction in power and strength due to an increase in muscle elasticity.
Instead implement a dynamic warm up using an empty barbell and body weight movements. Movements that warm up the muscles groups and movements you will be using/doing in your workout.
For example, if I’m about to squat my warm up may be:
20 ft x forward lunge
20 ft x backward lunge
20 ft x duck walk
20 ft x inch worm
10 x air squats
x 3-5 rounds
Then, with an empty barbell:
5 x back squats
5 x good mornings
0:20 x bottom of squat hold
Then a slow and easy build in weight
95lbs x 10
135 x 5
185 x 5
225 x 3
275 x 3
etc.. depending on my reps and sets that day.
Regardless, never skip your warm up. It shouldn’t be seen as optional. Even if you’re in a hurry.
Make them an automatic part of your training and you’ll drastically decrease your risk of injury allowing for a long a prosperous lifestyle in the gym.