Preparing your body for exercise is one of the most important ways to ensure a safe and effective exercise session. These days warm ups are much more than a quick jog and a quad stretch, as increasingly fitness professionals are understanding the importance of designing your warm up for the specific exercise you are about to do.
A good warm up should aim to do a number of things to prepare the body for exercise:
It should gradually raise the heart rate which improves efficiency of blood flow to the muscles, transporting oxygen more efficiently
Increase body temperature which will in turn increase temperature of the muscles, helping them to contract more easily
Increases mobility of joints, helping you move them more effectively
Increases blood flow to your joints and muscles
Mentally prepares you for the exercise session to come
The type of warm up you do is also important - the traditional warm up which might include some moderate cardio activity such as a jog, followed by a series of static stretches has come into question in recent years, with some studies showing that static stretches before an exercise session can actually reduce performance and do nothing to reduce the risk of injury.
Increasingly fitness professionals are using what has become known as a dynamic warm up which aims to stretch your muscles and joints through a range of motion whilst gradually raising the heart rate and body temperature. A good dynamic warmup should focus on the whole body, even if you are not planning on working the whole body in your main session. Having said that, if you are working a specific muscle group then you should ensure that the warm up focuses on the body parts and movement patterns which will be included in your main workout. So for example if your main workout includes squatting with a barbell then you would want to include some body weight squats in your warm up routine.
Think about ensuring you cover all planes of motion and movement patterns in your warm up. Most warm up exercises will be body weight, such as lunges, squats, high knees, heel flicks, but I also like to use resistance bands to warm up and mobilise the upper body. When you find a great warm up sequence stick with it, it doesn’t need to be varied to be effective.