Over time warm ups have been looked at as either a waste of time or something that people who take themselves too seriously do. Nowadays you’re lucky to see someone do a 5 minute warm up on the treadmill before hitting the weights.
So the FAQs of this subject are the following:
- How long should a warm up last?
Anything between 15-20 minutes. It should be a solid foundation of your workout and should naturally link into your workout without even realising the warm up is over.
- How many stages should there be in a warm up?
Between 3 – 4 depending on the person
- Stage 1 – Soft Tissue Work
This applies to people that have some tightness in certain areas of their body that may affect their range of movement/mobility, this tightness could also be limiting how much you are able to work certain muscles therefore restricting your progress.
This is often common in the traps when trying to work your deltoids/lats and in the hip flexors when trying to work your glutes/quads. Using a foam roller or trigger point ball you can seek out these tight spots and ease them out before starting your workout. This should take between 5-10 minutes depending on how tight these areas are, in some cases this section can be skipped.
- Stage 2 – Pulse Raiser
This is the part where you get your heart rate up and your blood circulating, this can be done in many ways. If you have the space, it’s best to use it and to stay off the machines, to really get your body moving add multi-directional movements, for example forward and backward jogs, side steps, slow change in directions, this should last 2-3 minutes before stage 3.
- Stage 3 – Mobility
If you are still doing your generic stretches before your workout then please stop! The rule of thumb is to only stretch a muscle that needs to be stretched otherwise you could be making the muscle more vulnerable to being injured.
Instead think about mobilising the joints and throwing in some dynamic stretches to warm up the muscles you are going to use. Following from stage 2, this is where you start bringing in drills like heel flicks, dynamic hamstring kicks, hip gates and shoulder rolls whilst you are still jogging and keeping the pulse up. The common mistake is to come to a complete stop at this stage causing your heart rate to drop straight back down defeating the objective of the pulse raiser, this should take up to 5 minutes.
- Stage 4 – Muscle/Neuromuscular Activation, Sports Specific Drills
This will be the peak of your warm up. Depending on what type of training session you are doing this section will differ, let’s say for arguments sake you are doing a sport specific training session. You will take the pace of your pulse raiser up and you will start introducing sharper turns, short and sharp sprints, short reaction drills, acceleration and deceleration drills. This will last up to 10 minutes and will transition smoothly into the main bulk of the workout. The same rules can be applied to a strength session but with this section being focused on the muscle activation.
- What are the benefits of this extended warm up?
The most obvious answer to this is injury prevention, there is no escaping that you may think you’re invisible now but sooner or later, it will catch up with you if you do not prepare your body the right way.
The second benefit is peak performance. Take F1 cars for example, before they set off in the race they spend time fine tuning everything and warming up the tires to ensure that everything is in place. Consider yourself as the F1 car and take these same measures to get the best out of your workout.
Don’t be afraid to try something new that could take you further
Evolve or Be Extinct!