Warming up is a critical component of exercise, and its importance should not be underestimated. Without properly warming up, you’ll hamper your performance and face the risk of injury. A proper set of warm-ups will stretch your muscles and limber them, preparing them for the physical exertion ahead. Warm-ups should start with light cardio such as jogging, and then progress to stretches.
A proper warm-up will literally warm your muscles up, releasing tension and allowing them to flex more freely. It also dilates the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and placing less strain on the heart during intensive physical activity. Warming up will also cause you to sweat, which is important because it allows your body to regulate its own temperature. Finally, the best warm-up stretches will not only warm you up but help limber your joints, increasing your range of motion and helping you move and exercise more comfortably.
There are two basic kinds of stretches – static and dynamic. As the names suggest, dynamic stretches involve motion, while static stretches do not. Each type of warm-up has different benefits for your flexibility and range of motion, so the best warm-up stretches incorporate both. Dynamic stretches generally involve some kind of repetitive motion focusing on a particular muscle. Each muscle should get about ten seconds of attention. Static stretches require you to hold a pose that creates moderate tension in a muscle for ten to twenty seconds.
Here are some of the best warm-up stretches to get you started:
- Stand with your legs apart and your feet pointing straight forward. Step one foot forward and slowly lower your body forward and down. Hold this position, with your weight on your back foot, for ten seconds.
- Lie on your back with one arm extended straight out. Lift one of your knees and draw it up as close to the opposite hip as you can. Use one hand to hold your knee in place as you breathe out slowly.
- Stand with your legs apart and your hands planted on your back. Your fingers should be pointing down and your elbows extended out from your body. Breathe out slowly as you draw your elbows in until they’re as close to touching as you can manage. Hold them there for five seconds.
Remembering to warm up and do your stretches properly and patiently can greatly enhance physical performance and reduce the risk of injury.