The Workout Warm Up – Necessary or Fruitless?

Warm up. We hear it during our gym, barre, spin, yoga, classes, and workouts. We have some movements we like and others we wish off the list. Warm ups prepare you for your chosen sport. They literally warm your body’s relevant systems: cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, and muscular-skeletal.

Warm up means many things to many coaches and athletes. It can be slow and methodical movements geared toward a full body warm up. For athletes, it often means mimicking the movements required for your sport yet at less intensity. And some, yes some, believe the warm up is unnecessary with non-injured individuals.

 

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At Fitness on the Run (FOR) we require a “FOR warm up.” Among the menu of choices clients and instructors choose are diaphragmatic breathing, foam rolling, use of the LAX ball, glute bridges, and hip openers.  At one well-known barre studio, if a client arrives more than 10 minutes late, they aren’t welcome in class. The warm up is that important to their practice.

We often hear a client say, “I’m already warm. I’ve been up since 6am and run the stairs at home 10 times.” The movements this client did all morning didn’t prepare her for the power, strength, and conditioning work we program. The brain needs a reminder it’s game time. Literally. Also, most students drive to FOR. Sitting just before a workout, even in the warmer weather, can give a false sense of preparedness and lead to injury.

So, let’s start to peel away the layers to unveil what is the best-of-the-best warm up.

Some choose to begin their workout with the exact movements required in the class or in their sport — they use no weight, low intensity, and progressively warm the body through those same movements—so we often throw in lots of hip hinging movements like jump squats or thrusters to get the hips and glutes fired. Do you see baseball pitchers performing wind sprints? No. You see them warming up the shoulder and hips and throw the ball — yet with less intensity and rigor. Outfielders warm up with wind sprints to prepare their body for the same thing: to catch a hit in the outfield.

For clients with an injury or an underlying condition for which we need to ensure proper ROM (range of motion) before rigorous movement, we can even spend the 50 minute session returning to the same ROM or warm up movements to see if we can help mobilize those joints then aim for stabilization.

Depending on your sport or your preferred fitness medium, your warm up is different. If you are new to exercise, or are on Day 3 of your legs-only program, the warm up is different. New to exercise? Spending ample time learning how to move through the warm up is really important. It prepares all of those systems mentioned above for game-time. Spinning? Warming up the legs, shoulders, and neck are a natural start to that workout.

Some people I know program 20-30 minutes JUST on their warm up. They also devote two hours to those workouts. (They are super strong and fit!)

Others, like FOR, choose whole body movements to get warm. We focus particularly on the hips, the core and the glutes — the engines from which we will require a lot of stability, awareness, and activation. We believe this is a way to telegraph to the brain, “wake up: this is what we want to work and well.”

From our little corner of the Earth: a warm up is essential.

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Adrien