A common problem many novices face when they begin exercising is knowing where to start. Not just with knowing what program to follow, or whether to do cardio or resistance work or what, but literally just how to begin. How to physically start exercising. In a sense, how to warm-up.
Warm-ups are an oft-neglected aspect of physical fitness. Many programs generally assume the reader knows how to warm-up, and even many personal trainers will have a client arrive fifteen minutes early so they can go ahead and warm-up before the session so that the trainer can then…have them further warm-up.
As an NSCA-certified personal trainer, and as a physical culture enthusiast, I’ve done warm-ups that lasted over twenty minutes and I’ve done no warm-ups, and everything in between. And in my experience, the best form of warm-up is very, very short.
When I talk to people about exercise and the topic of warm-ups comes up, I make the following recommendations:
– Do what you’re going to do as your warm-up, just do it easier
– Warm-up for about 1/5 to 1/10 of your total work time
So, if you’re going to lift weights for thirty minutes today, decide what will be your primary lift and do three to six minutes of easy versions of that lift. If you’re going to jog for an hour, walk briskly for six to twelve minutes.
Do NOT stretch. Stretching before exercise is not just unproductive, it’s counter-productive. If you stretch, stretch afterwards, when your muscles are limber and your body temperature is high. Your muscles and joints will be more pliable. If you want to do some mobility work (I’ll discuss the difference between mobility and flexibility another time), that’s perfectly fine but do that in-between the activities of your warm-up (the aforementioned easy versions of your primary lift).
Warming up is valuable, and definitely a good idea, but it does not and should not be long and complicated. You aren’t trying to get in a mini-workout before your workout. You are trying to elevated your heart rate just a little and raise your core temperature while increasing blood flow to the areas needing attention that day. This is not a complex process, nor is it a lengthy process.
In summary, when you warm-up, do about five minutes of an easier version of whatever you’re planning to do for your workout. That’s it. And then get to training.