The first clue is in the name! Increasing body temperature by starting exercise gradually has many benefits . Warm muscles are more flexible and more efficient.
The increased blood flow delivers more oxygen to the muscles, and the warmth lets more get through into the muscle fibres. ‘Practising’ movement also improves neuromuscular communication. This makes for better co-ordination and faster reflexes.
No warm-up means cold muscles that may not be able to cope with the workout. There will also be poorer co-ordination, higher risk of injury, and reduced performance.
There are many variations, but these are the elements that should be fitted in.
The warm-up phase should last at least five minutes, or longer for a heavy workout or weights session. As your workout gets tougher, your warm-up can follow suit.
The jury is out over whether stretching before exercise works, but that doesn’t mean you mustn’t stretch during the warm-up. The important thing is to get the muscles going first.
In short –yes! All too many just walk into the gym and start lifting – that is asking for trouble.
As well as your general warm-up, do some ‘practice runs’ before each new lift type. Carry out one set with an unweighted bar, or with the machine set to its lightest mode. Use this time to check that your form is 100% right.
Last but not least, mirror that warm-up with a short cool-down at the end of your workout. This should prevent cramps and mean that you don’t get chilled from a sudden stop. Finish your workout as you started it – gradually.