Why You Should Warm Up Before Exercise
Have you ever shown up to the gym, stepped on that treadmill, cranked it up to full speed, and then felt a painful tweak in your calf after 30 seconds? Or started a HIIT workout by jumping right into burpees, only to pull a hamstring halfway through the first round?
These scenarios may sound familiar to anyone who has skipped warming up before exercise. But taking those extra 5-10 minutes to ease into your workout can make a world of difference when it comes to both performance and injury prevention.
This guide will walk you through the science-backed reasons why warming up is so important for beginners, how to structure an effective warm-up routine, and actionable tips to make sure you get the most out of those valuable minutes.
Warming Up Reduces Your Risk of Injury
Let’s start with the cold, hard facts: research shows that an appropriate warm-up before physical activity can reduce your risk of exercise-related injuries by up to 50% compared to diving right in.
That’s because warming up increases blood flow to your muscles, tendons, and joints, allowing them to move through their full range of motion without restriction or tightness. It’s estimated that up to 30% of all sports injuries can be attributed primarily to inadequate warming up.
So if you’re new to working out, make sure to dedicate at least 10 minutes before every training session to get your body ready for action. Skipping this step repeatedly can easily lead to painful strains or sprains that set back your fitness goals.
Warming Up Boosts Strength and Endurance
Warming up doesn’t just make your workouts safer – it also helps you perform better when that timer starts ticking.
Studies demonstrate that an effective warm-up routine can boost muscle strength by up to 20% and muscular endurance by up to 25% compared to no warm-up at all.
That’s because raising your core body temperature by even one degree Celsius increases the rate of energy production, primes your nervous system, and makes your muscle fibers contract more forcefully once called upon.
Over time, those performance benefits will start to add up and you may notice yourself lifting heavier weights, sprinting faster miles, or being able to hold a plank for longer than when you first began working out.
So don’t waste those valuable minutes at the start of your training session – getting warmed up properly will provide a key long-term edge.
The Structure of An Effective Warm-Up
Now that you know why getting warmed up matters, let’s talk about how to structure an efficient warm-up routine before both cardio and strength workouts.
An effective warm-up generally consists of three components performed in the following order:
1. Light Aerobic Activity
The first step is starting to raise your heart rate and body temperature through 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity such as:
- Light jogging
- Jumping jacks
Aim to reach approximately 40-60% of your maximum heart rate during this phase. Going too intensely too soon can be counterproductive.
2. Dynamic Stretching
Once you’ve started breathing heavier, it’s time to incorporate full body movements that take your joints through their complete range of motion.
Dynamic stretches like lunges, squats, and arm swings increase blood flow to the working muscle groups and enhance flexibility. Perform 10-15 controlled reps of each move.
3. Sport-Specific Movements
The final phase involves doing watered-down versions of the intense exercises, skills, or drills that you’ll be performing during your actual workout.
For example, before a HIIT session, do bodyweight squats or a few lighter plyometric hops rather than going all out on jump squats right away. Or if you’re getting ready for a 5K run, build up from a light jog to a steady run.
This phase allows your body to rehearse the specific demands of the activity to come, setting you up for the best performance possible. Spend 5-10 minutes on these movements.
And just like that, you’re warmed up and ready to tackle the workout ahead safely and efficiently!
How to Cool Down After Your Workout
You know the saying “What goes up, must come down?” Well, the same rings true for your heart rate and body temperature after exercise.
Taking 5-10 minutes to gradually transition out of a workout allows your breathing, heart rate, and temperature levels to return back closer to normal. This “cool-down” phase brings vital oxygen and nutrients to your tired muscles to help them recover and rebuild.
In addition, studies demonstrate that proper cooling down through light aerobic activity and stretching may reduce next-day muscle soreness by up to 25% compared to stopping abruptly. That’s music to any beginner’s ears!
Here’s how to safely wrap up your workout:
Light Aerobic Activity
As soon as you finish your last rep, cut back the intensity by about 50% and keep moving for 3-5 minutes. So if you just finished a bootcamp class, walk around instead of heading straight to your phone. Let your heart rate and breathing settle into a relaxed pace.
Finally, spend another 5 minutes stretching any tight muscle groups through their full range of motion and holding for 30 seconds. This helps remove waste like lactate, enhances flexibility, and brings your body into a relaxed state.
And there you have it – a complete warm-up and cool-down routine to bookend your workouts safely and effectively as a fitness newbie!
Beginner Warm-Up Exercises To Try
If you’re unsure of where to begin when putting together your own warm-up, have no fear! Here is a simple 10-minute beginner sequence focusing on total body movements to boost your heart rate and prime all the major muscle groups:
Jog In Place
Let’s start moving! Jog lightly in place for 60 seconds just to get your blood flowing. Keep those knees high and arms pumping!
Time for some shoulder rolls with a twist! With your feet hip-width apart, start making large backward circles with both arms for 30 seconds. Then reverse the motion, rolling your shoulders forward for another 30 seconds.
Stand with feet just beyond shoulder-width and send hips back as if sitting into a chair. Descend until thighs are parallel to floor, keeping your knees behind toes. Explode back to start for 10-15 controlled reps.
Step forward with one leg, lowering your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor. Drive through your front heel back to standing. Repeat for 10-15 reps on each side, holding proper form.
Set up in high plank position with hands under shoulders. Keeping your core engaged, lower chest towards ground until elbows bend to 90 degrees. Press back up to start for 8-10 repetitions. Modify on knees if needed.
Forearms on the floor with elbows aligned under shoulders, extend legs directly behind you and hold a straight line from head to heels. Maintain engaged abs for 30-60 seconds. Drop knees as needed.
Standing tall, roll shoulders up towards ears and backward down in a smooth circular motion for 30 seconds. Then reverse direction rolling forward down and up towards ears for 30 more seconds.
And just like that, you’re warmed up and ready to give your workout everything you’ve got! Repeat this sequence or something similar before every training session. Your body will thank you later.
How to Know When You’re Warmed Up
With so much going on during an exercise warm-up, you may be wondering:
“How do I know when I’m actually ready to start my workout?”
Great question! There are two simple ways to gauge if your body is prepared for intense activity:
1. Your Breathing Feels Easy
One of the best indicators that you’re warmed up is if your breathing feels relaxed and controlled at the end of your warm-up. You’ll be breathing heavier than normal, but shouldn’t feel wildly out of breath.
2. It Takes 2-8 Minutes To Feel Ready
Experts also agree that an effective warm-up typically takes most people between 2-8 minutes before hitting “ready” status, assuming you begin at a light intensity.
So if your breathing is even and controlled after dynamically moving for 5+ minutes, you’re likely good to go. Time to tackle that HIIT workout!
On the other hand, if you still feel tightness in certain muscles or your heart is racing uncontrollably fast, spend a few more minutes rehearsing sport-specific motions related to your workout until everything feels loose and primed for action.
And there you have it – a comprehensive beginner’s guide to properly warming up before your workouts!
By taking just 10-15 minutes to raise your heart rate, enhance flexibility, and prep your muscles for what’s to come, you’ll step into each training session feeling energized, motivated, and ready to give it your all.
Remember, consistency is key! Follow these tips to make smart warm-ups a regular part of your fitness routine. Your body will repay you with improved performance, faster progress, and a lower injury risk along the way.
Now drop down and give me 10 jumping jacks…it’s go time!
Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.