Don’t have time to warm up? Think again.

With careful planning, you’ve managed to find one hour in the day when you can workout. This glorious hour lies between work and dinner with the family. When this hour comes, you don’t mess around.

There’s no time for talking. No time for socializing. And of course, there’s no time for a warm-up. You’ve got one hour. It’s go time!

Here’s the problem

It’s NOT go time.

Your body is not awake. I know, you’ve been awake since 6AM, had several meetings, gone to lunch, and finished a month-long project. You have to be awake, right?

Mentally, yes. Physically, no. The question is, what physical activity have you done since you woke up this morning? (The walk into and out of the restaurant you ate at for lunch doesn’t count.)

Now you’re in the gym, have 225 on the rack, and are about to squat. With the barbell on your back, you get into position, pump out 5 reps you and throw the bar back onto the rack, eager to slap on another 50 pounds. You’re feeling like a pro. Heck, you even got the guy in the cut-off staring at you. But, your body wasn’t ready for that.

Let me explain…

There are several things that can (and eventually will) go wrong with getting into an exercise without a proper warm-up. If you’re preforming a complex movement (i.e. – Squat), then your body has to recruit very large muscle groups in the proper sequence to move efficiently. However, by not preforming a warm-up, you have failed to give those muscles the necessary stimulus to prep them for movement.

And when the muscles are not stimulated prior to exercise, it is possible they remain inactive during your first repetitions (or entire set). To overcome the force (weight), your body is forced to recruit other (usually smaller) muscles to produce the desired movement.

Let’s take the squat for example. If you are preforming this exercise and your gluteus maximus (big butt muscle) and gluteus minimus (small butt muscle) are not primed (via warm-up), then your low back muscles will likely be required to take over the bulk of the effort to extend your hips as you come back to the standing position. This will inevitably cause you low-back pain at some point (usually the day after you exercise). The solution?

A warm-up.

Simply taking a couple minutes to get your body stimulated for the subsequent exercise is sufficient to reduce the risk of injury and prime your body for the best work out of your life.

If you still aren’t sold on the importance of a warm-up, then here are some additional benefits:

Increased blood flow: When you stretch a muscle, blood flow increases in that muscle. This is important for many reasons. First, increased blood flow means increased blood glucose. And increased blood glucose means more energy for your workout. Second, increased blood flow will result in increased oxygen delivery to the muscle(s) worked. This will not only increase efficiency of the muscle, but it will also increase performance (strength, power, endurance) capabilities.

Primes the cardiovascular system: Because a warm-up increases blood flow, the heart will beat more rapidly and in turn vasodilate (expand) the blood vessels to prepare them for increased blood circulation. With your blood vessels expanded, your body will be primed for the more intense physical activity that is to follow.

Begins the sweating process:
Your body is extremely smart and is created to maintain temperature of (about) 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, whenever your core temperature elevates, the body looks for ways to eliminate this heat to maintain the ideal temperature. One way it does this is through sweat.

Increases the temperature of the muscle: It’s never a good idea to rev the engine on a car when it’s first started because the engine hasn’t warmed up. Your body is no different – beginning a workout without a warm-up causes your muscles to have to exert themselves when they are still ‘cold’. You need to ‘warm them up’ so that you can move efficiently and thereby reduce the likelihood of injury (this applies to both a workout in the gym or on-field competition).

Bottom line, you need to warm up. There is no excuse for neglecting to do so.

But that does not mean it has to be a long, monotonous routine. Here are a few examples of warm-ups you can perform before getting into your exercises.

For a lower body workout:

  • 25 Jumping Jacks
  • 10 Body-Weight Squats
  • 25 Jumping Jacks
  • 5 Alternating Lunges
  • Repeat 2 times

For an upper-body workout:

  • 25 Jumping Jacks
  • 10 Pushups
  • 25 Jumping Jacks
  • 10 Medicine Ball Floor Chest Passes
  • Repeat 2 times