Warm-up Exercises & the Importance of them
We are all aware that warming up is really important, despite this, many of us still do not warm up properly. Why is it so important? What are the benefits of warming up? If you want to avoid obtaining an injury then warming up is a must. If you do not warm up, you could become injured which will inhibit your ability to workout.
As a result, all your hard work and the progression you have previously made will be wasted, as fitness levels can decrease extremely quickly. Below we will share with you the importance of warming up. We will also inform you about the different types of stretching and most importantly, how you should warm up and what stretches you should include.
Why do I need to warm up?
This is a question we receive a lot when training clients. A warm-up will gently prepare the body for the workload ahead. It gradually increases the heart rate and circulation to ensure that the muscles will receive enough oxygen and nutrients they need in order to work. Your muscles will start to become warm which helps them to become more elastic.
You will also be warming up the synovial fluid, which is the fluid which surrounds a joint. Synovial fluid is found around the synovial joints (Ball and socket joint, Condyloid joint, Plane joint, Saddle joint, Hinge joint and Pivot joint). This fluid provides lubrication at the joints to allow them to move smoothly. Without being warm, this could cause a lot of pain. As well as a pulse raiser, you should also stretch your muscles prior to the exercise ahead.
What are the different types of stretching?
There are different types of stretching; we will cover in this document: static, dynamic, ballistic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).
- Static Stretching – This type of stretching is the most common. To complete a static stretch you will specifically target a muscle/ muscle group, hold it to its maximal point and hold it for 30 seconds or more. There are 2 types of static stretching. The first one is Active: this is where an added force is applied by the individual for a greater stretch. The second is Passive: this is when an external force is applied to increase the intensity e.g. another person, or an assistive device.
- Dynamic Stretching – This is opposite to static stretching. Instead of holding a stretch statically, you are moving dynamically in a dynamic stretch. Dynamic stretching is defined as ‘active movements of muscle that bring forth a stretch but are not held in the end position.’ This type of stretching is great to prepare your muscles for the workload ahead, it will also help to increase your power, improve your flexibility and will increase your range of movement (ROM). An example of a dynamic stretch would be walking lunges.
- Ballistic – Ballistic stretching uses the momentum of your body. It is a bouncing position and the stretch is not held for any period of time and instead is bounced to its maximum range of motion. Bouncing down repeatedly to touch your toes is an example of a ballistic stretch. MotivatePT does not recommend that you do this stretch, as it can lead to an injury if you are not supervised whilst doing it. Ballistic stretches have very little impact on the muscle and often damages the muscle more than actually doing it any good.
- PNF – This is a more advanced form of stretching; although we would not recommend this type of stretching for a warm-up, it is important to understand as it really good at increasing your flexibility. It was originally used for rehabilitation as it targets specific muscle groups. PNF stretching involves firstly a passive stretch being held for 10 seconds, then contraction of the muscle isometrically against a resistance whilst in the stretched position for 6 seconds. You will then relax the muscle for less than a second and then it is passively stretched again and is held in this position for 30 seconds, this will increase the range of movement significantly. Need help to stretch contact us.
How do I warm up?
On average you should warm up for about 3-10 minutes, this all depends on your surroundings, are you outside or exercising indoors? You should start with a pulse raiser; complete our pulse raiser below. After you have elevated the heart rate, you should start to dynamically stretch the muscle groups you intend to use throughout your workout. Once you are feeling warm you should undertake a ‘practise’. If you are about to start weighted back squats, you should start with bodyweight squats or start with an empty bar. By practicing the movement this enables your muscle memory to kick in and will continue to prepare your body for action.
3 Minute Pulse Raiser
30s Heel Kicks
30s High Knees
30s Plank Jacks
30s Squat Jumps
30s Jumping Jacks
30s High Knee Pull-Ins
Warm up dynamic stretches
- Walking Lunges with Upper Body Twist – From a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, step one foot directly forward and drop down into a lunge. Hold each elbow with opposite hands and twist your upper body, turning it in the direction of your front leg. Return to the center and then push back to the standing position, and repeat on the other side. Continue for a total of 10 reps.
- Leg Swings – You can do this move whilst holding a wall or a fixed surface. Swing one leg forward and backward, as if you were kicking a football. Swing your leg 10 times and then repeat with the other leg. You can also do this exercise without holding on, to make it more challenging and to target your core.
- Fire Hydrant Circles – This move is great for opening up your hips and can eliminate any stiffness/soreness in that area. Begin on all fours, make sure that your core is locked in tight and throughout this movement ensure that you are only moving the working leg. Keep your leg bent at 90 degrees, take it out to the side and then move it in a circular motion. Do this for 10 reps and then repeat on the other side.
- Frog Walk in – Start in a push-position/a high plank and bring your right foot and place it next to your right hand. Remember to keep pushing your hips down to really feel this stretch. Then, return to the starting position and repeat with your left leg, complete a total of 10 reps.
What stretches shall I do for lower back pain?
Almost every person will suffer from lower back at some stage throughout their lives. For this reason, it is extremely important to stretch your back often, to relieve any pressure points. Below we have shared with you our go-to back pain solving stretches.
- Child’s Pose – You do not have to be a yogi to benefit from this movement! It is extremely good for stretching your lower back. Begin on all fours, ensuring that your shoulders are directly over your hands, your hips are over your knees and that your knees, ankles, and heels are in a straight line. Then, push your hips backward, so your bottom ends up resting on your heels. Stretch your your arms out forwards to really feel the stretch, making sure that you maintain the natural curve in your spine. Hold this stretch for one deep breath and return to the starting position. Repeat 8 – 10 times.
- Cat-cow Pose – Begin on all fours, as you inhale drop your stomach towards the mat, and lift your chin and chest by gazing up towards the ceiling. As you exhale, draw your stomach up towards the ceiling and round your back with your gaze facing your knees. Repeat this exercise 5 – 10 times.
- Cobra – To begin, lie on your stomach making sure your feet are also lying flat, on the mat. Inhale and push your upper body towards the ceiling by straightening your arms. Gaze upwards and focus on making sure your abdominals are engaged. Breathe and hold this stretch for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
- Knee Rolls – This final move will really help you to stretch and mobilise your spine. Start by lying on your back, keep your knees bent and together. Bring your knees up so that your hips and knees are both at a 90-degree angle. Roll your knees of side to side, making sure that you keep both shoulders on the ground. Hold the stretch for one deep breath and return to the starting position, and repeat for a total of 10 reps, alternating sides.
How to release tight hamstrings?
- Active Stretch – Begin by lying on your back. Keep one leg straight on the floor and the other leg up in the air as straight as possible. Hook a skipping rope/resistance band over the ball of your foot and once again straighten that leg. Keeping your back on the floor, apply a small amount of resistance by ensuring that the rope is tight, and continue breathing as you try and straighten your leg. Hold for 3 breaths and then relax, repeat this 5 times on each leg, alternating each time.
- Static Seated Stretch – Begin by sitting on the floor with one leg stretched out straight, bend the other leg so your foot is close to your inner thigh. As you inhale slowly bend your torso forward to allow you to feel the stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Standing Hamstring Stretch – Place one leg out in front of you on a chair or bench. Maintain a slight bend in your standing leg and place your hands on the bent thigh to help balance yourself. Inhale and slowly lean forward from your hips. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat for the other leg. Repeat as many times throughout the day as you need.
How to get rid of neck pain?
With so many of us bound to our desks for up to 9-12 hours a day, many of us often suffer from a stiff/sore neck. It is very important to regularly check your posture whilst standing and also whilst you are seated. Many of us often end up slumped over our desks which will place a huge amount of pressure on our neck. Below we have included an exercise to help relieve this stiffness.
- Neck Rotations – Start by standing up straight and begin by looking over your right shoulder. Slowly begin to roll our head towards the left shoulder by ensuring that your chin remains close to your chest. Once you are looking over your left shoulder, stop and return the other way repeating the movement, so that you are completing half moon circles. Repeat this 5 – 10 times.