Benefits of limbering up

We all know that we are meant to warm up before exercise, right?

Well we should do anyway.

But with so much talk about different ways and methods of warming up it can lead to many of us feeling baffled and a bit confused about the best way of doing it. Everyone seems to develop their own routines and ways they find best to warm up which they stick to however is this really what we should be doing?

A warm up is not only brilliant both to prepare your body, muscles and joints physically for the effort you are about to exert, but also for your brain to be mentally prepared too. In sports like dance and climbing warming up can help mentally by helping you remember technique or in dance terms choreography.

There are two types of warming up methods which are; passive,- an external source warming you (e.g. warm shower) and active-you warming yourself up (e.g. by using exercise methods). It has been found that although passive warming up has some short term benefits active warming up is much more effective if done correctly and is not too intense. An active warm up engages muscles which is a major benefit in preventing injury.

The benefits of warming up before exercise are numerous. Below I have just listed a few of many benefits of a decent warm up:

  • increases blood flow to muscles
  • increases rate of oxygen delivery
  • increased speed of nerve impulses
  • decreased stiffness of connective tissue

So how should we go about warming up?

Firstly raising heart rate is essential, this can be done in any way; skipping, jumping, running, cycling. You should always start slowly in order to prevent injury and then gradually build up the intensity. If you’re not starting to sweat after ten minutes you know you must be doing something wrong!

The second part of a good warm up is flexibility. A term you may not be familiar with which should be done at the second stage of a warm up is dynamic stretching. This type of stretching loosens muscles so that they can perform their full range of motion. In dynamic stretching you should first start off with shallow movements and then build up the full range in stages. An example of this can be with the shoulders doing “windmills” whereby you start off by rotating the arms around slowly and gradually increase the diameter of the circle. You may feel like you are about to take off and fly, but it’s actually a very good way of making sure you don’t pull a muscle in your arms.

The final part of the warm up is sport specific activity it is important to practise the range of movements of the sport you are about to do before you dive straight in which can result in injury. By practising movements you are not only just warming up your muscles you are also engaging your brain, therefore making you better and more accomplished at a certain type of exercise.

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