Warm ups. The most neglected part of a workout.

Stretching Elelphant

Image Courtesy: David W. Siu / Creative Commons

Usually, when on enters the gym, the most overwhelming emotion that takes over is to just jump at the first available weight station or machine, and just crank out the motion!

What one (especially the GYM newbie) doesn’t realize is that this can be dangerous. For any good workout plan to return maximum results, it is imperative to have a gradual warm up routine, before diving headfirst on to the first available rack of weights or cardio machines. While enough has been written about warm up being the most essential move, before beginning any serious exercise regimen, still, it has been by far the most neglected portion of most people’s workouts that I have been witness to.

Starting a vigorous workout without a warmup is like starting up your car and jumping to fourth gear straight up. Chances are the engine will jerk and stall. Similarly the human body also needs to be gradually taken towards intense workouts. If it is done abruptly, it may lead to muscular injury. In certain cases, the injury can be so serious that it may just be the end of your stint at the gym altogether.

What follows are some of my thoughts on the subject and some tips for easy incorporation of warm ups into your everyday workout routine.

Just Stretch – One of the simplest and least time consuming moves is to simply stretch each muscle group on the body. The immediate result is enhanced blood flow to the muscles. I usually like to do this before hitting the gym, so that as soon as I get there, I can get to work. (note: I can afford to do this because my gym is located right inside my apartment complex and take less than 5 minutes to reach. So if you take about 15-20 minutes to reach your gym, do this after you reach!)

Warmup sets – This one is for folks who lift weights. The first set of your multi-set work out can be used as a warm up set for the chosen muscle groups. Use a light weight for this set and try to do 10-12 rep while breathing normally. It will certainly wake up those muscles so that they can function more efficiently in later sets, with heavier weights and reducing the possibility of injury.

Treadmill/Exercycle – This is also an excellent warmup tool, when used properly. If you are one of the tribe, whose only concept of a workout is walking away on the treadmill, then it is a good idea to start slow for a couple of minutes and then gradually increase speed/resistance. Usually it is a nice idea to use the pre built programs in the treadmills that come with predefined warm up and cool down routines.

One of my personal favorite stretch is the downward facing dog. It really gives a nice stretch to the buttocks, hamstrings, calves and the lower back.

Once you are sufficiently warmed up, proceed to your chosen form of exercise. Most importantly, enjoy what you do and have a great work out. Remember to relax & cool down appropriately after a good intense workout to bring your heart rate back to normal.

Good Luck!!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. There is increasing evidence that static stretching before a warm-up are just as likely to cause injury as not stretching. Muscles are not elastic until they are warmed up (very light cardio or light weights as you comment).

    See University of Las Vegas study.

    1. anandspeak says:

      Hi Reader,
      Thanks for stopping by!
      With due respect to the study, I’d like to point out that the ancient Indian fitness practice of Yoga is full of static stretches. And is fast gaining acceptance and followers from the so called developed world. The study is only a small group’s opinion – while it shouldn’t be disregarded, it must also not accepted unilaterally.
      My 2 cents..

  2. I think there is a vast difference between what happens in yoga and the typical stretches that people do pre-exercise/cardio, especially as taught by typical high school teachers and gym instructors in the US. Also – not a yoga expert, but what i’ve seen does not involve diving right in to big massive stretches and is a combination of lesser stretches and slow movements – i.e. they warm up before doing the big stretches. Separate studies also show that stretching before running robs the leg muscles of power.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/3374401/Stretching-before-exercise-can-be-bad-for-you.html

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