So often, people will either completely skip a warm-up, or will rush through an incomplete warm-up. A true warrior will never skip or half-ass a warm-up. The warm-up is what prepares your body for the upcoming stress you will be putting it through. The warm-up will increase your core body temperature, which will increase the temperature of your muscles, allowing for better performance during your workout. By completing a proper warm-up with full range of motion, your dynamic flexibility will improve and your joints will be lubricated and fortified by the compressive forces going through them.
Your warm-up should take a minimum of 15-20 minutes and should address all major areas of the body with an emphasis placed on the muscles specifically utilized during the upcoming workout. Your warm-up should be a combination of dynamic exercises/stretches (exercises/stretches that include movement) designed to warm the muscles, tendons, and joints, reducing the chance of injury, as well as allowing your body to increase your range of motion.
Keep in mind that static stretching (stretching where you hold a stretch position with no movement) should not be a part of your warm-up because your muscles, tendons, and joints are not yet ready for static holds. To think about why this is important to understand, imagine your muscles and tendons are like a rubber band, and when you begin a workout, they are similar to a rubber band that has been in a freezer. If you pull the frozen rubber too far, too quickly, it will snap. This is similar to what can happen if you complete static stretches prior to warming up the body. Static stretching is an important part of your fitness program, but it should be properly placed within your workout as an active rest activity and/or at the end of your workout as a part of the cool-down for optimal results. I will go into more detail about the importance of static stretching as we advance into the other parts of designing a proper fitness program.
It is key to always remember that we are looking for quality over quantity. You are better off taking an hour to complete a warm-up with every exercise done technically, as opposed to rushing through the exercises just to “get to the main workout.” You may find initially, that just doing the warm-up exercises is enough for your current fitness level. Closely monitor your technique with each exercise and make corrections to any technique mistakes you may see. Start out slow, and increase intensity only when your body is ready. You are ready to advance only when the technique your are currently completing is done with ease, and looks smooth and athletic. You also want to be cautious not to become one-sided with any exercise, so be sure that each exercise is performed correctly on each side of the body, creating a solid fitness foundation. It is important to follow all technique guidelines as well. When you complete an exercise with proper technique, you are putting your joints and tendons in the most optimal place for the action, thereby reducing the chance of pain and possible injury. Consistency rules when embarking upon a fitness program. The more consistent you are, the more progress you will enjoy. Commit to your fitness, commit to yourself.
There are so many warm-up exercises that entire sites and books are dedicated to it. I will be providing a list of a variety of common warm-up exercises, their purpose, and how to incorporate them into your fitness program. If you are interested in learning more warm-up exercises, I encourage you to do your own research and learn more about this important aspect of a fitness regime.