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The warm up issue: should you do this or not?

A warm up is understood as one of the integral parts of any workout by some and is neglected by others.

Activation, warm up workout, pre-activation… are other names given to warm up.

Do you want to know what my opinion is? Then read this article and see whether or not to warm up before training.

Warm up before training: Should it be done or not?

preparing for exercise

Aside from not having a consensus on whether or not to warm up before training, it also seems, that for those who argue that one should warm up, there is no established warm up routine among exercise practitioners.

For example:

  • Some choose to do aerobic exercise – like running or cycling
  • Others choose to “warm up” on the machine where they will perform the exercise with slightly lower loads
  • Some choose to do some stretching
  • And finally, there are those that don’t warm up at all

With such a wide range of hypothesis which one is correct?

Is there an ideal type of warm up?

Before thinking about the ideal warm up, we need to understand the characteristics of the exercise that we are going to perform and understand what its requirements are, in order to know on which body part to focus.

After this analysis, I find it interesting, and sufficiently comprehensive, to focus on the core zone, because it is one of the parts of the body that helps us most to maintain stability, something that will help us later to perform some exercises such as squats, for example.

Before performing an exercise, it is important to increase body temperature and also oxygen supply to the muscles, something that is important not only to increase circulation, but also to prevent further injury

In this case some aerobic exercise can be ideal.

Examples of exercises:

  • Rowing
  • Bicycle
  • Elliptical bicycle

Once these two tasks are done, the most controversial part of warming up comes: stretching.

Should we stretch before exercise or not?

My opinion is:

You should stretch dynamically, so you can perform a stretching and shortening of the fibers.

According to Torres, quoted in the article  “Effects of Dynamic and Static Stretching Within General and Activity Specific Warm-Up Protocols”:

“Dynamic stretching would be expected to be superior to static stretching due to the closer similarity to movements that occur during subsequent exercises.”

The article   “Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation” distinguishes between the two forms of stretching I have mentioned.

Static stretching is quite simple:  

static stretching

“The traditional and most common type is static stretching, where a specific position is held with the muscle on tension to a point of a stretching sensation and repeated.”

On the other hand, dynamic stretching involves movement.  One of the main types is active dynamic stretching consisting of

“Active stretching generally involves moving a limb through its full range of motion to the end ranges and repeating several times.”

181_dynamic stretch

I don’t see much benefit from using a static stretch, because some studies point to the loss of strength after doing it, what will hamper your performance later during training.

At this stage we already have three key parts in our warm up

  • Understand the training that will be done to adapt the warm up
  • Importance of increasing body temperature and muscle oxygenation
  • Warming up vs. stretching

From this phase on, specificity will be important, that is:

  • If the warm up is for a team sport, it may make sense to do some neural activation – which serves to increase the athlete’s ability to react and also to become faster.

Usually, this activation consists of short and intense stimuli such as jumping or running with a change of direction (at the sound of the whistle).

Basically, it serves as a pre-activation for the sport, unlike a bodybuilding training, where there is no opponent and the environment is more controlled.

  • If the option is to warm up for weight training workout, it may be a good strategy to do one or two sets with lighter weight with an emphasis on technique and muscle contraction.

In my opinion, warm up is crucial as a way to prepare the body for physical activity and increase performance during training, reducing the risk of injury.

Warm up Strategy: My Proposal

A warm up strategy could be:

  • Aerobic: 5-10 min of rowing

rowing machine

  • Core: Dynamic plank, abdominal crunch and inchworms

dynamic plank

  • Dynamic stretches: world’s greatest stretch – because it is a very complete stretch that acts mainly on the hip flexors, chest, calves muscles, deltoids and adductors
  • Mind-muscle connection: doing 2×10 of the first training exercise increasing progressively muscle contraction

weight training

I think one of the key points of warm up is increasing performance during training, preparing the body for action and not reducing training capacity.

So, in my opinion, warm up should be an integral part of a training program.

What are your strategies?

Comments

The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About Tiago Sousa

Tiago Sousa
Tiago Sousa has a degree in Sports & Physical Education, he is a Personal Trainer and also a Crossfit L1 Trainer. He is a former competition swimmer with his own outdoor training business. He aims to bring more science to his area, helping people to achieve their goals in a safe way.

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