You know how important it is to stretch and cool down at the end of a workout, but it’s also important to do a proper warm up before you start exercising. A warm up does just that—it gets your body warm and prepped for working out. It raises your body temperature, loosens your muscles and warms up your joints to get your ready to work. Properly warming up will help you perform better and avoid injury. Here are the steps for doing a proper warm up every time.
Eat and Drink
First thing’s first, you need to make sure you’ve had food and water at least a few hours before working out. You might not have enough energy if you exercise on an empty stomach. Don’t eat anything too greasy, sugary or heavy, or you will feel sluggish and possibly cramp. A banana, a rice cake with peanut butter or a piece of fruit and some crackers will fill you up just enough. Likewise, you need to be properly hydrated if you want to have a good workout. You should also keep water on hand during your routine.
Loosen Your Joints and Muscles
You want to make sure your body is loose before you jump into a warm up. While different workouts will require that you warm up various parts of your body differently, the basics are the same. Loose joints and muscles will increase your range of motion, so you can get deeper into an exercise without hurting yourself.
There are a few different ways to get loose. You can start by using a foam roller. The roller massages your muscles to help you get the kinks and knots out of your body before you start exercising. Target spots that tend to get tight—hips, hamstrings, quads, glutes, IT band, shoulders, and lower back.
You can also do some stretching. The key here is that the stretching is dynamic, not static. Static stretching holds a muscle in one position. It’s the kind of stretching you do sitting or standing still. Touching your toes or holding your foot by your butt to stretch your quads are examples of static stretching. These are best done after a workout, and can actually make you more prone to injury if you do them before exercising. Dynamic stretching is active. It moves your muscles through a continuous range of motion. Arm circles, leg swings and trunk rotations are all dynamic. Just keep moving and you’ll be great.
Get Your Heart Pumping
You want to start elevating your heart rate before you start your workout. Slowly job, ride a bike, or even take a brisk walk. You can also do plyometrics. Jumping jacks, high knees, glute kickbacks, and grapevines will all get your heart pumping. You can also do a practice run of your planned workout. Going through the lifting motions without any weights will get you moving while prepping your body to do the real thing.
Of course, a great warm up and workout can be completely offset if you don’t cool down properly. Make sure you stretch (the static kind is fine), drink more water and eat a healthy snack or meal.