Warm-up Fundamentals

Including a proper warm-up prior to performance of your exercise program may have a profound positive impact on the program outcomes. The body requires time to increase heart rate, blood volume, and improve the viscosity of the synovial fluid which exists in many of the joints allowing for freedom of movement and just as important, laying the foundation for the workout with both the mind and body on board. This includes the benefit of the rehearsal effect which allows you to “rehearse” the movement patterns you will be performing during the exertional phase of the program, leading to improved efficiency, effectiveness and safety of those movements.

Therefore, this week, the content of an effective warm-up will be highlighted for different types of sports and programs so that you may make a concerted effort to integrate effective warm-up segments into your program regularly. *Regarding warm-up duration: this will be dependent upon the program demands and the individual’s physical needs; however, 5-20 minutes is the general rule of thumb. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

#1 The warm-up for the majority of exercise and conditioning programs should be performed dynamically. Your goal is to increase your body temperature, get the blood moving, joints lubricated and consequently, this is more likely to take place if the body is actually moving through space and time. For example, if you are a coach of a sport’s team, you will want to design a warm-up that will thoroughly address all of the movement patterns your athletes will be expected to perform during their training session. Large, general body movement patterns such as large stride walks across the room/court/field, knee up walking, arms overhead and swinging, lunges, squats, lateral, zig/zag easy shuttle runs, and across all three movement planes, sagittal, frontal and transverse, so that the entire body, 360 degrees is warmed up and ready to exert.

#2 If you are going to lift heavy loads, then a dynamic warm-up which includes light load and body weight simulating the movement patterns that you will be performing might be recommended. Olympic lifts such as the squat/snatch/clean/jerk are all possible with little or no load to emphasize the motor patterns and allow the body to prepare for the heavier loads. Remember, you must master the foundational movement pattern prior to adding external load, power or impact. If the foundational movement pattern is not well established, there is little chance that the loaded version will be safe or effective.

#3 In contrast, if you are going to walk, run, cycle, row, climb, step or jump during your program, a dynamic warm-up at a lower intensity level where you are performing these skills, would be suggested. And, if the terrain you intend to train on is varied, then your warm-up should reflect those variations as well, just at a lower intensity level to allow for preparation. Particularly in choreographed programs such as step interval or kickboxing, the warm-up would include the lower intensity skills, drills and combinations that will be expected during the program. As mentioned previously, the rehearsal effect really empowers the participants to master the foundational choreography so that when the music tempo increases, the complexity of the skills and drills advances, everyone is ready to perform optimally.

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