The warm up is the most critical component of your workout, helping prevent injuries and allowing you to have the best workout possible. You may notice how tight you feel, first thing in the morning or after a long drive. Your muscles may be up to 30% shorter first thing in the morning than they will be later in the day. Exercising on a short, tight muscles may lead to tears. Driving tightens your hips, hamstrings, back and chest. Your muscles need movement to warm and lengthen before you use them for work or exercise.

A thorough and gradual warm up serves many purposes according to the American Council on Exercise:

  • Creates efficient calorie burning by increasing core body temperature
  • Delivers oxygen more quickly to muscles
  • Prevents injuries by improving elasticity of muscles
  • Improves range of motion
  • Allows for better muscle control as your brain and body engage
  • Allows you to work out longer due to better elimination of lactic acid
  • Produces faster, more efficient muscle control
  • Allows time for your mind to focus on the upcoming workout

.The warm up movements bring warm blood to your muscles, allowing them to lengthen and move more freely. The movements are functional, meaning they move as you will during your workout. Start slowly, allowing the warm blood to help you prepare for your workouts. Keep the movements slow and gentle. You will notice a difference after even 10 minutes. It is important to include movement rather than stretching.

Use this functional warm up as a model for all activities including walking, running, biking, playing basketball, swimming, strength training and even golf. This type of warm up is practical before you begin any physical work like loading or cleaning. Remember- think movement rather than stretching!

1. Perform functional movement exercises. These movements involve the large muscles you will utilize during your workout. Begin by warming your core including your entire back, abdomen, and glutes and work your way out to the extremities- your arms and legs. Develop a routine that you recall each day. This functional warm up is a phenomenal way to start your day even if you aren’t working out.

2. Walk for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing your pace. Walking brings blood to the big muscles in your legs and is functional for most activities.

3. Start your workout at an easier pace for at least 10 minutes. Your hardest efforts should be at the end of your workouts, when you are very warm. For other sports do some sport specific movements-lateral shuffles for tennis, thoracic twists for golf, and arm circles for swimming.

Functional Warm Up Movements

*Start at center of your body and move outward towards the extremities

Begin laying on your back (you may start this in bed when you first wake)

  • Pelvis tuck
  • Knees side to side, add upper body twist
  • Alternate knee to chest
  • Goal post arms/push elbows into floor
  • Goal post rotations
  • Bridge up/downs
  • Prone extension (superwoman or man)

Move to quadruped (hands and knees)

  • Cat/Cow, hips to right, head to left
  • Extend arm and opposite leg (bird dog)
  • Right hand behind head, turn up towards the sky (thoracic rotation)
  • Leg circles with a bent leg
  • Downward facing dog with bent knees/peddle feet
  • Rolling down dog
  • Moving low lunge/leg extension

Stand as you are feeling warmer

  • Shoulder rotations, external rotation, scapular retractions
  • Good mornings
  • Extended reach side bends
  • Standing, moving twists
  • Shoulder rolls and arm circles and neck rolls
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks
  • Ankle rolls

Pick a few of these moves for each body part and just flow. Listen to music and make this a nice part of your morning routine or workout prep. Write down your warm up until you have it memorized. You will feel the muscles warm and ready with each movement. Take it slow and keep moving. This functional warm up will prepare you for the workday or your workout.

Enjoy a relaxing stretch at the end of your day or after your workout.

by Christy Coughlin

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