Warming up is crucial in preventing injuries and in overall safety while exercising. When you warm up your muscles, you allow them perform at their greatest range of motion; when you slowly raise your heart rate, you minimize the stress that exercise puts on your heart. Athletic trainers at the NEBH Sports Performance Center suggest some activities you might do before you exercise.
A warm-up should consist of light cardiovascular activity and stretching to slowly raise your body’s temperature and increase your heart rate. Dynamic stretching, which requires you to move through a range of motion as you stretch, should make up the majority of your warm-up. Here are some examples of dynamic warm-up exercises:
Jump rope: Jumping rope at a quick pace for 2-3 minutes is a good way to raise your heart rate before intensive exercise.
Windmills: This exercise will increase your heart rate while at the same time getting bending and rotational movements incorporated into your routine. To do windmills: start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your legs straight, bend and reach your right hand to your left foot. Stand up straight and then reach your left hand to your right foot.
Arm circles: Circle your arm backward 10 times and then forward 10 times. Repeat on each arm.
Leg kicks: Keep your torso tall, and kick your leg out in front of you (to work your hamstrings), then behind you (to stretch your hip flexor) keeping it straight. Alternate legs as you walk.
Knee to chest: Bring your knee to your chest before pushing your leg back to the ground. Alternate legs, performing these stretches while you walk or from a stationary position.
These warm-up exercises and dynamic stretches will provide you with a good starting point for a general warm-up, but you should also select ones that will activate the specific muscles you’ll be using in your workout. For example, if you’re a runner, the knee to chest stretch will mimic the muscle movement at the top of your stride.
Remember to warm up before you exercise to make sure your body benefits from your workout and that you protect yourself from injury.