How to Warm Up Properly to Improve Performance & Avoid Injury
An effective warm up can improve your performance in your workout or sporting activity as well as prevent injuries. However, some common methods of warming up may actually increase risk of injury and reduce your strength and performance.
For example, many people still perform passive stretches before working out, which can temporarily dampen the nervous system activation of the muscles you stretch and leave them weaker for a couple of hours. This not only reduces performance in your training session but can also lead to joint instability which increases risk of injury.
Another popular way to warm up is to run on the treadmill or hop on the bike for a long, slow, low intensity cardio session before hitting the weights. While there may be some benefits to a brief cardiovascular warm up, there is no need to expend a significant amount of energy doing cardio before training. There are more effective and time efficient methods for preparing yourself for a workout, such as a dynamic warm up and core activation isometrics.
A dynamic warm up progressively and actively introduces range of motion while engaging the muscles that you are going to use in the workout. While passive stretching essentially “forces” flexibility onto a muscle or joint, these dynamic movements stimulate your nervous system and safely increase mobility and muscle activation.
Core isometrics are static positions that you hold for 10 to 15 seconds to contract and activate the muscles around your core, spine and trunk. I look at this as “tightening up your muscle-belt” before you train… it’s like ramping up the ability of those muscles to contract during your workout, which increases stability and performance while reducing risk of injury.
In addition to this, it’s advisable to include a few lighter sets of whatever movements you are training in your workout, such as performing a squat with a lighter weight before moving on to the working sets, or a few minutes of easy jogging before starting a hard run.
This video demonstrates how to perform a simple variation of a progressive dynamic warm up as well as several core “activation” isometric exercises that you can perform before your workout (or other physical activity) as a safe and effective way to prepare your muscles, joints, and nervous system for training:
You can also download a free PDF copy of these warm up exercises here:
These are only a few basic examples of these sorts of warm up and movement prep drills and exercises you could use. Start to incorporate these into your pre-workout routine and enjoy the results!
Until next time,
Stay Strong and Move Better.