If you exercise even semi-regularly, the chances are you know someone who warms up improperly. It is also likely that you see that someone in the mirror every morning. The fact is, if you know that a warm up is necessary before exercise, whether you are performing it correctly or incorrectly, you are way ahead of the proverbial game. So, what are you doing wrong? Well, there are two major mistakes people make when warming up before a workout or an athletic event.
One common workout warm up mistake that people make is typically made by men. As a chiropractor who worked as a certified personal trainer for the last six years, I have seen literally hundreds of men "warm up" by performing one light set of a given exercise before progressing to full weight. The fact is this technique should be used as the very last step in the proper warm up.
The most common mistake that I see in the gym regarding a warm up is made by men and women alike. It's the cardio warm up. People who make this mistake come into the gym and hop on a bike, a treadmill, or an elliptical. They move for five to ten minutes to build a sweat, and then they get off and jump right into lifting weights. The fact is, again, this technique has a place in the warm up. The mistake is that alone this cardio warm up is really only the first step.
Put simply, the term "warm up", is poor word choice. I prefer to call it "readiness drills". The purpose of readiness drills is to acclimate the body to the tasks you are about to ask it to accomplish. Let's use baseball as an example. If you ever attended a Major League game and you got there early enough to watch the players go through readiness drills, you would watch the players start their days by running slowly. The purpose of running slowly is to gradually increase blood flow, thus increasing body temperature. Once the muscles have become more flexible from the increased blood flow, players build towards top speed without risking injury. After they have acclimated themselves to running straight, you would see these professionals start moving in all directions that their body could possibly be asked to move during the game. They used the same slow progression of effort to progress to full speed in all aspects and skills involved in a game. You should be doing the same thing. A typical day of readiness drills for my patients and clients include a multitude of exercises including a cardio sweat, body squats, ball slams, pushups, and pull ups. Depending on the exercise program or sport of the day, more specific tasks are used as well.
Your readiness drills should reflect what your workout plans to accomplish. Step one, build the sweat, this is for the cardiovascular and muscular systems. Step two, move the body without extra weight in ways it will be asked to move when you exercise. This is for the nervous system. Step three, lift light weights and build up to your heaviest weight of the day for a specific movement gradually. This brings everything together. Now you are ready to exercise. A typical day of readiness drills should take between 10 and 20 minutes. The changes your body undergoes due to the readiness drills lasts only about 20 minutes once you begin resting. Keep this in mind when you exercise.
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