Warming Up

Preparing for movement, "movement prep" , warming up or whatever you want to call it--is something done before exercise or working out. The purpose of a warm up is to warm the muscles, increase the heart rate and prepare the muscles, neuromuscular system and mind for training. They guys and gals with the most aches and pains and worst exercise form always seem to be the ones who skip warming up because they are "in a rush." Check out the benefits Mr./Mrs. In A Hurry are missing.

Benefits from warming up include:

The more muscles you involve, the better (for the most part). The best warm ups involve lower amplitude versions of the movements you are about to do, i.e.:

You get the idea. So we are not talking about static stretching here--static stretching actually forces the target muscle to relax, it temporarily makes it weaker. not the best thing to do before a workout (but great after--see Flexibility page).

Dynamic stretching is the ticket for warming up! A dynamic stretch is the opposite of a static stretch. In this version, you quickly move a muscle in and out of a stretched position. Example: A body-weight lunge is a dynamic stretch for your quadriceps and hips.

Here's why the difference matters: Improvements in flexibility are specific to your body position and speed of movement. So if you do only static stretching as most do you'll primarily boost your flexibility in that exact posture while moving at a slow speed. While certainly effective if you're a contortionist, it has limited carryover to the flexibility you need in sports and weight training, which require your muscles to stretch at fast speeds in various body positions. That's why dynamic stretching is a necessary component of any program: It improves your "active" flexibility, the kind you need in every type of athletic endeavor.

Dynamic stretching also excites your central nervous system, and increases bloodflow, and strength and power production. So it's the ideal warm-up for any activity. And when you regularly perform both dynamic and static stretches, some of the flexibility improvements from one will transfer to the other.

Check out the following routines and try one for 5-10 minutes before your next workout:

Dynamic Warm-up - Floor

Dynamic Warm-up - Standing

Joint Mobility

Joint Mobility video guide