Should You Do A Warm Up Before Exercising?

There are two main types of people, those who dedicate time to a long warm up, and those that do the bare minimum if any. So, why do we warm up, and is it really necessary or is it just a big waste of time?

The need to warm up before exercise is similar to driving your car in freezing cold weather. Under these conditions, you wouldn’t normally get in your car and immediately drive it at high speeds. Instead, you’d start it, let the engine warm up, defrost the windows, and complete any other activities required to prepare the car for the journey ahead. The concept is the same when you warm up your body (but possibly a little less extreme). As you warm up, you gradually increase your muscle temperature allowing you can perform at your best. 

What do warm-ups usually consist of?

Most warm-ups usually include some kind of cardiovascular exercise, which is then usually followed by some stretching. Sometimes you may also perform activation exercises for the specific muscle groups which you will use during the session. 

So what’s actually happening in my body?

Cardiovascular exercises are used to help increase blood flow to the muscles, as well as increase intramuscular temperature. As the muscle becomes warm it becomes more pliable, and the tendons, in turn, become more flexible. Stretching the muscle then increases its length and pliability decreases the likelihood of a tearing a muscle or a tendon. In addition, your range of motion improves, in turn allowing for better technique which itself reduces the risk of muscle injury. Activation exercises will also help you to prepare, improving coordination and reinforcing motor patterns which you will use later in the session.

Mental warm-up is important too!

Your warm-up can also be a form of mental preparation for the session ahead, clearing out the mental cobwebs or frost (to reference our car analogy). The gradual ease into exercise helps the athlete feel motivated, confident, focused and prepared for the task ahead. Mindset is extremely paramount with high-performance athletes. Michael Phelps has a complex and involved warm up and mental preparation routine, which has probably had some role in his immensely successful athletic career. 

So, I should warm up?

Yes. Warm-ups are important for not only your physical but also your mental preparation. You won’t reach your full potential during an exercise session without a warm-up, and they also decrease the likelihood of injury. All in all, warm-ups are worth the sacrifice of a few extra minutes in your session to help you keep injury free day after day.

Aaron McIlwee