Why warm ups increase performance and reduce risk of injury

By Jesse Kepka
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist

The consensus on warm-ups seems to be that they are a small enough part of the workout to be forgotten and therefore deemed unnecessary. Let’s face it, they are less than exciting. Hitting a personal record on a back squat is so much more enticing. But know that this 10-minute segment of your sweat-fest is a stealthy way to level-up in your performances. 

There are two types of warm-ups: general and specific. Both should last at least 10 minutes, and both will involve low-intensity, cardiovascular and/or muscular movements. A general warmup does not necessarily relate to the workout that follows and can include time on a stationary bike, rowing machine, elliptical or treadmill. This is applicable before any type of workout. 

A specific warm-up involves low-intensity movements that will mimic the exercises to follow and includes dynamic stretching. An example of a specific workout before weight training can be air squats, pushups, lateral lunge pulses, shoulder gators, light band rows etc. 

It is important to note that both types of warm-ups should include self-myofascial release and static stretching if you have musculoskeletal imbalances. This will decrease movement compensations and help you avoid injury. For beginners, self-myofascial release can be done with a foam roller. While being conscious of your posture, apply pressure to overactive and shortened (tight) muscles for at least 30 seconds once you find a tender spot. Staying free of knots will enhance your neuromuscular communication and help keep those joints pain-free. Again, static stretching involving longer holds is only for imbalances. Otherwise, keep the stretching to active, short holds for more repetitions. 

Among the benefits of warming up, there are three main points to focus on. The first is increased heart and respiratory rate. It will essentially increase your capacity to perform work in those areas. Blood and oxygen will pump to the newly activated muscle tissue, making it ready to rock. 

With this increased flow of goodness, tissue temperatures will rise (hence “warm up”), and you will find yourself more flexible, which again, is so good for joint mechanics and clean, safe movements. The elevated temperature will also raise your metabolic rate. We do love that! Burn, calories, burn!

Lastly, and my favorite part, is it just plain pumps you up. Being psychologically prepared – having your head right – can have huge effects on your willingness to work hard to the very last repetition. And nobody has time to waste even a single rep these days. Make them all count. Mental readiness is an exceptional tool for progression. 

In client and personal experience, it seems like the older we get, the longer it takes to warm up. Depending on your level of soreness from a previous workout, it could take a little longer as well. I allow myself at least 20 minutes of time for a short jog and specific stretching to my body imbalances before my own trainer runs me through a second warm-up specific to his plan for me that day. So I’m at about 30 minutes for warming up each time. (Just for reference, I’m 38 years old and usually a bit sore.) And as far as mental capacities, we are all extremely unique. So, I would recommend doing what is best for your body and what readies you to go beast-mode! 

Do you want to level up? Nail your warm-up. 

With the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, the Priority Fit Camp community workout has moved online. For more information, check out the Meetup.

Tip shared by Jesse Kepka, NASM-certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist and owner of Elevate Fitness. Jesse is a co-organizer for Priority Fit Camp. Each week, we publish a health and wellness tip that is shared at the Priority Fit Camp community workout. The free group class happens every Saturday at 7:50 a.m.  

Click for more info on the free Saturday group workout.