How to warm up before a workout
Many athletes and personal trainers consider warming up the most important part of any training session. Unfortunately, it's also the part of a session that is most often performed improperly. A well-designed and properly executed warm-up not only optimizes performance, it also decreases the chance of experiencing an injury. This is where activation, proper form, and even mirror checks are crucial.
A good warm-up should take your body through the range of motion it will encounter in its training, whether that's weight lifting, basketball, martial arts, running, or walking. Warm-ups should also serve as a bridge between sitting and activity, preparing your body for this transition from a sedentary posture to active movement. You want to make sure that you don't "over warm-up," which means overexerting yourself. This can impede performance, especially when it comes to heavy lifting and high-level sports.
What are different ways to warm up?
Depending on the type of exercise you plan on doing, your warm-up will differ. A good warm-up should consist of a couple of basic components. You want to increase your range of motion, then activate your muscles to get your body primed for whatever activity you're doing. There are three different warm-up options that you can use, depending on the type of physical activity you're doing:
1. A warm-up for low-level activity
If you are planning on walking, doing an easy or moderate hike, or doing light sports, then your warm-up will focus on activation, a few more repetitions, and mobility. This type of warm-up should serve as a light five to ten-minute workout that will secure proper muscle firing and activation to prevent injury and enhance performance.
2. A warm-up for sports as well as strength and conditioning
While similar to the first warm-up, this type of warm-up is by definition shorter and has less volume. Why? Because you don't want to overdo band activation or pushing as just one example — this can hinder your sport or lift performance. This kind of warm-up can help to increase joint range of motion prior to exercise.
3. A warm-up after the initial warm-up specifically for strength and powerlifting
If you plan to do strength training or powerlifting, after doing an initial lighter warm-up, you should do a warm-up specifically to prepare for the exercises or lifts you are about to do. You should do one maximum rep or under six reps to help your body warm up for the exercise itself, paying attention to your physical form. The main goal is to stimulate the muscles so they fire optimally during training.
Warm up the right way to prevent injury
Yes, warming up is an art form and takes practice and planning. Remember that no matter the activity, you should take your muscles and body through the range of motion that they'll encounter, whether that's sport or lift specific. The goal is to activate the proper muscles to fire. For instance, if your glutes are not firing due to excessive sitting, a glute activation warm-up is a good idea to prevent injury.
Dasha L. Anderson is a celebrated trainer and fitness expert in New York City, with a master's degree in exercise science and sports nutrition and a specialty in performance enhancement and injury prevention. She is also the founder and head certifying instructor of Kettlebell Kickboxing and has contributed to Self, Shape, Fitness Rx, and Epoch Times.