Training without warming up is like putting taffy in the freezer then trying to bend it. Your muscles, ligaments and joints react much the same way when asked to perform without proper notification, resulting in pulls, strains, sprains, tears and other pain-filled issues.
Most people skip their warm-up (and cool-down for that matter) in an effort to save time. But truthfully, in as little as five minutes you could ready your body and brain to handle the work ahead, improving mobility and movement quality while preventing injury.
Here are five ways to warm up that will get you ready to roll and keep you from getting benched after you bench.
Roll to Rock
Foam rolling unties knots and shuts down trigger points while also removing waste products from your tissues, helping lengthen and release your muscles in preparation to train. Do your rolling at the beginning of a warm-up, before anything else, and target the areas that are chronically tight or sore from a previous workout. For additional mobility work and accelerated recovery, roll again postworkout.
A dynamic warm-up is one that moves (as opposed to being stationary), taking your muscles, limbs and joints gradually through their complete range of motion. First, do some simple dynamic stretches such as arm circles, leg swings, air squats and hanging shrugs — stretches that focus on a particular limb, joint or action. Second, do moves that use multiple joints, such as duck walks, inchworms, bear crawls and crab walks, to engage your mind and your body functionally.
Pump and Prime
Getting your heart rate up is paramount to being warm and ready for exercise. Walking, jogging, skipping rope and riding a stationary bike are all good activities to get your blood moving and your body ready to train. You can even alternate this kind of light cardio with dynamic stretches to save time. But remember: This cardio is not part of your workout, so don’t sprint when you’re supposed to jog. Work up gradually to a pace at which you’re breaking a sweat but not breathing hard.
Although most people think of yoga as a relaxing, rejuvenating activity, it is also a great way to warm up when done in a flow — a non-stop sequence of moves that takes your body through various positions. This engages multiple muscle groups at once while also waking up your brain, and the deep breathing that accompanies the practice helps open airways and oxygenate muscles. Try two to five minutes of a sun salutation flow before getting into your training.
Prep Then Rep
If you’re doing heavy strength training or a powerlifting workout, doing some movement prep primes your nervous system for the work to come. Bodyweight moves or exercises done with light weight that use the same muscles that you’ll be training are ideal. For instance, if you’re going to be squatting, do some air squats or one-legged squats first, then move into some back or front squats with the naked bar for a couple sets, then up the poundage. If you’re benching, do some push-ups, inchworms and Spider-man crawls before hitting the bench for some warm-up reps with the bar.