Should You Warm Up Before Exercise


 

We always all heard it… “Get your warmups in before something else!” It’s one of those things that we kinda just accepted to be true without really questioning it. And luckily, there does seem to be some modicum of truth to it.

We have research showing that warmups can help you run a bit faster, jump a little higher, and yes, even lift a bit heavier. These improvements, although small, can be significant, especially in competitive sports, where these few extra seconds, inches, and pounds can be the difference between first and second place.
But in the same vein, we also have a decent amount of research showing warmups doing very little, if anything at all, for improving performance. So, it’s not that cut and dry. Same goes injuries. Some research show reductions and some don’t. So why exactly is there such warmup ambiguity?
Well, it mostly has to do with the fact that the concept of a “proper” warmup is, itself, quite ambiguous. We simply don’t know what is the absolute best warmup. Too many variables are in play. What type of warmup activities should we employ? How long should we perform them? And at what intensity? Or even, how long should we wait between the warmup and the primary activity itself?
Because of these plus other factors, wildly different warmups are used in the studies which yield wildly different results. Even so, there are a handful of consistencies that we might be able to apply and improve our own warmups. One of which is the use of dynamic, activity-specific warmups to improve performance and reduce injury. Dynamic warmups involve the use of movement patterns similar to the activity itself, as well as active stretches where you move the desired joints through its full range of motion. For example, if you’re doing sprints, a light jog would be a similar warmup pattern. A solid active stretch would be long-stride lunges.
For deadlifts, you can use alternating high knee stretches and good mornings. In all cases, just make sure that the warmup fits the activity. Avoid using the same warmup for everything you do. Another seemingly important factor is keeping the body warm, especially if you regularly deal with cold environments. Performance have been shown to dip in colder conditions and more so without a proper warmup.
It might be the added blood flow or muscle elasticity that aids in this matter. Whatever it is, a warm body is important. Low-intensity activities like jogging or light jump roping might be of use here. And, of course, we have to address the use one of the most recommended warmup tool, static stretching.
Static stretching is great for improving flexibility and mobility, which we all need. But, it essentially does nothing in terms of actually helping in your activities nor reduce injury risk. A great deal of the research even shows static stretching immediately before an activity can actually hurt performance, especially acute performance activities like sprints or heavy lifts.
If you’re aiming to hit that new squat PR, then you would possibly wanna avoid doing those 30-second toe touches and quad stretches right before. If mobility is a big problem for you, then do your stretches well before your activity, maybe 15 minutes before. Or higher however, do your stretches in its own, separate session. And… that’s about it in terms of research consistencies.
Sure, there are some other potential factors you might have heard of, like post-activation potentiation and foam rolling, but research is still rather hazy in those areas. Time will tell. Also, importantly, I do need to notice that the following tips primarily apply to intense activities. Something like a 100-meter sprint, max vertical jumps, or going for your one-rep max. For light to moderate activities, like you gym bros doing volume training with 8 to 12 rep sets, warmups might not matter as much. In fact, your 1st one or 2 sets may be enough of a warmup for your ulterior sets.
Same concept applies if you’re just going for a light jog or any other non-maximal activity, which is perfect if you’re strapped on time. So, instead of spending 20 minutes on fifteen variations of biceps stretches, just pick up the dang weight and get your curls in. And finally, one more crucial point I want to make: if a warmup you’re doing now works for YOU, even if it goes against some or all of things outlined in this video, then just keep doing it!
Research is important, yes, but so is your own experience. Plus, the studies don’t provide much information on the psychological aspect of a warmup. Sometimes, a certain warmup protocol might mentally, more so than physically prepare you for your activity. And that’s extremely important and should not be ignored. In the end, the true answer to, “should you do a warmup,” is… It depends. It depends on the activity you’re doing and it 100 percent depends on how the warmup affects YOU.

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