Warm-ups: Part 2

lava-flowThe last post, Warm-ups: Part 1, discussed the two broad categories of warm-ups: passive and active. And the two categories of active warm-ups: general and specific. Here in Part 2, we'll take a closer look at warm-ups, especially active warm-ups.

woman-joggingFor light or moderate activity that doesn't involve an unusual range of motion (ROM), a warm-up isn't usually necessary. This includes walking, jogging,  rowing, elliptical, cycling, etc. As long as you're not sprinting, no need to warm up. And no warm-up is usually required for high-repetition exercises with no extreme ROM, such as doing 25 crunches. This also applies to lifting light weights with high reps, again as long as it's not taxing your ROM.

As noted previously, general warm-ups (such as jumping rope or calisthenics) warm the muscles and joints prior to strenuous activity. These are particularly valuable prior to engaging in activities that stress the body in a variety of ways, such as mixed martial arts or running an obstacle course. They are also helpful when the weather is cold and the body needs a more thorough warming.

Specific warm-ups are activity-specific; that is, they warm muscles and joints that will be taxed performing a specific sport or exercise. (So they're aptly named!) The simplest example is performing the activity at a low intensity and gradually increasing as the body warms up. Examples include common aerobic activities such as running, rowing, swimming, and cycling.

General warm-ups are often used to prepare for specific warm-ups which can be demanding in themselves.

sweaty boxer punchingAn example is boxing where the pre-fight warm-up will include strenuous shadow boxing and punching coaching mitts. However, that is preceded by a general warm-up, usually including jumping rope. (Note that boxers work up a sweat...it's a real warm-up!)

Similarly, other high-intensity sports such as basketball, martial arts, tennis, or lacrosse require thorough warm-ups that begin with a general warm-up. This may be followed by some stretching to prepare for increased ROM. This is particularly true for extreme flexibility sports such as martial arts that feature high kicks. (Chorus line dancing, too.) Specific movements should be next. For example, the serving motion in tennis or kicking drills in soccer.

When lifting weights, the best warm-up for a lift is performing the lift with a lighter weight, often using multiple sets with increasing weight and decreasing reps. The number of reps and sets for the warm-up are typically based on the number of reps to be performed in the "real" lift. For example, doing a one-rep max lift (1RM) usually requires more warm-up than doing sets of 8 reps, where the earlier reps in the set serve as a warm-up for the later, more strenuous reps.

A warm-up does not need to be a long and tedious affair; five to ten good minutes is usually enough for most activities. Longer if you're training where it's cold, or are on the high side of 40 (like most of us here). But other than requiring some extra time, there is almost no potential downside to warming up and plenty of benefits. So make a warm-up a regular part of your workouts.

Be seeing you.


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