What is a pre-exercise warm-up?

Think about a warm-up in the context of starting your car in the middle of winter. It is unrealistic to expect that we can demand peak performance from an engine that has been sitting – cold and quiet for a period of hours. The engine of the human body is no different. Warming up is a crucial part of achieving peak performance in physical activity, exercise and training. Unfortunately, the warm-up segment of a workout, much like flexibility, is often not given the attention it truly deserves. A warm-up does not need to be long to be effective – it simply needs to be done right. 

Simply stated, a warm-up is an activity or set of activities designed to prepare the body for more intense exercise. Ideally, a proper warm-up should precede all types of exercise – aerobic, strength training and athletic performance.

Types of Warm-Ups

cycling-bicycle-riding-sport-38296As warm-ups go, there are two primary types: general and specific. A general warm-up includes 5 to 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise. This can range from brisk walking to light jogging or cycling. A specific warm-up is usually employed in situations preceding an athletic performance or practice. The specific warm-up varies depending on the type of sport involved. Activities include light, sport-specific movements lasting from 5-15 minutes. An important point to note – warm-ups, like all forms of activity and exercise, should be tailored to the individual’s unique needs and abilities.

What constitutes a quality warm-up?

While the typical warm-up does not last beyond 20 minutes, the effects of a proper warm-up support peak performance in any activity. Physiologically, in addition to the potential to reduce the risk of energy, a warm-up also increases intramuscular temperature, blood flow, metabolic reactions, heart rate, cardiac output, oxygen consumption, and muscle glycogen breakdown. Psychologically, a warm-up helps the exerciser or athlete to attain greater mental preparedness. It is thought that the benefits of warming up prior to exercise can lead to increased strength, power, speed, agility, and range of motion – all contributing to a  better performance overall.

pexels-photoThe American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) currently recommends that in order to support and enhance performance, a general warm-up consist of aerobic exercise at a low intensity for 10-20 minutes. So, before you grab the heavy weights, go for an intense jog, or play a pick-up game of basketball during lunch, commit to, at the minimum, a 10 minute warm-up to help your body prepare for the demands placed upon it.

We should not underestimate the ability, power, and strength of the human body; however, in order to experience peak physical performance, we must not neglect to provide the appropriate adjustment period a warm-up provides. Not only will you be prepared physically and mentally; you will likely out run, out lift, and out score your less than prepared opponents! So, get your motor running!

It’s All About That Balance

Erin Nitschke

Passionate wife, mother, college educator, writer, blogger, and health and fitness professional.


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