Getting hurt sucks!
We exercise to lose weight, build muscle, and feel better about ourselves, right? Well, it’s pretty tough to do any of those things lying on a couch with a pulled hamstring/groin/face.
Okay you can’t pull your face, but I’m trying to prove a point here so shut it.
Everyday I cringe as I watch people wander into a gym, immediately lie down on a bench, and start cranking out their workout with heavy weight within seconds. These are the people that end up hurting themselves and missing weeks/months due to ignorance/apathy (Which is worse? Don’t know, don’t care!)
Luckily, you’re smarter than the average bear, which is why you’re reading Nerd Fitness.
Today, you’re gonna learn all about the importance of warming up BEFORE every workout. On top of that, I’ll even teach you HOW to warm up.
Why warm up?
Above all else, the most important thing you can do when working out is warming up properly.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Come on. Surely it’s not the MOST important thing…”
To which I’d reply: “First, don’t call me Shirley. Secondly, if you don’t have enough time to warm up, then you don’t have enough time to work out.”
Boom! (as my arch-nemesis Joel would say).
So WHY is it so important?
Think of your muscles like rubber bands.
If you spend all day sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard, those rubber bands have gone almost completely unused. Now, combine this lack of movement with some cold winter weather – your bands are now extra tight and constricted. Then, go to a gym and immediately start lifting heavy weights or sprinting really fast – those cold, unstretched rubber bands get pulled apart very quickly and will snap. #Fail
So, what about just regular, static stretching then? Unfortunately, just doing static stretching before a workout can overextend those muscles and actually rob them of the power and strength necessary for your actual workout. #failagain
For that reason, dynamic warm-ups are the winner!
Think of it like a pregaming for your muscles – except replace “alcohol” with “awesome.” By jumping around and getting your muscles loose, active, warm, and ready for action, you will keep yourself strong and injury free.
On top of that, doing a dynamic warm up can help activate your central nervous system, priming your muscles for body for a great workout that produces your best effort.
Add “improved blood circulation” to the list of benefits of warming up, which will help you perform well in each exercise.
Need another reason? When your body is properly warmed up, your muscles and joints are ready for maximum flexibility, which means you can perform each exercise with PROPER form (like deep squats, for example) that maximize results and minimize risk of injury.
Still with me?
Good. Let’s take you through my favorite warm up.
The Dynamic Warm Up
Now, this warmup video I have below is relatively advanced, so you might need to make adjustments to suit your level of fitness. In fact, this particular warm-up might be more difficult than your actual workout. THAT’S OKAY.
Do what you can, adjust the exercises in this warm up so you can complete it, and go from there. See the next section for some suggestions on how to scale this warm-up to your level.
Here is this warm up written out:
- 2-3 minutes of jump rope (who cares if you mess up, push yourself!)
- 50 jumping jacks (pull your shoulder blades back, extend arms and really focus on the movement)
- 20 body weight squats
- 5 lunges (each leg)
- 10 hip extensions
- 5 hip rotations each leg (like you’re stepping over a fence)
- 10 forward leg swings (each leg)
- 10 side leg swings (each leg)
- 10-20 push ups (scale based on your level of fitness)
- 10 spiderman steps (each leg)
Yes, there is a lot of work put on your hips, butt, legs, and core. As nerds/desk jockeys, these tend to be the muscles that are the tighest and least active, and thus most susceptible to an injury.
If your arms and chest are particularly tight or sore, you can throw two more movements as well:
- arm swings (holding your arms straight out to the side, and then swing them and cross them in front of your chest)
- shoulder rotations (holding your arms straight out to the side, and move your arms in a circular motion, making bigger circles each time).
When it comes time for your workout, if you are doing heavy strength training (with barbells or dumbbells), make sure you do some warm up sets before jumping into the weight you’ll be training with for EACH EXERCISE. Always start with a set using just the bar to work on your form and get your body used to the movement. Then, do a few sets of just a few reps with increasing weight (but won’t tire you out) and THEN start your workout.
To answer your first few questions…
What if I don’t have a jump rope? Suck it up and go buy one! They’re dirt cheap, and a helluva way to start off any warm-up. Yeah, you might have crappy coordination, and you could even end up with bruised shins (and a bruised ego) to start out. Stick with it, improve your coordination, and get your body primed in just a few minutes.
Steve, I can’t do jumping jacks/I live on the second floor. Now, if you happen to be pretty overweight or live on the upper floor of an apartment building, then jumping jacks might not be an option for you. That’s okay – the reason I love jumping jacks is because they work out all four of your limbs at once and get you bouncing around. So instead, channel your inner Chuck Norris and do punches and kicks with each leg. I don’t care if you can’t kick higher than your shins and your punch wouldn’t kill a fly…just get those limbs flailing and warmed up!
Um, your warm up is tougher than my actual workout! The dynamic warm up above is designed for people who are doing serious training. If you are doing heavy deadlifts and squats and overhead presses, a proper warm up could keep you out of a career-ending injury. However, if you are just getting started with exercise and you’re only doing body weight exercises, obviously 20 real push ups during your workout isn’t possible…
THAT’S OKAY. Think of the above as the warm-up you aspire to complete. In the meantime, do the best you can. Let’s say:
- jump rope for 30 seconds,
- 20 jumping jacks
- 10 squats
- 5 lunges
- 5 elevated push ups or 5 wall push ups
- Follow the rest of the routine as planned if possible.
In this routine, your warm-up will act as part of your workout, as you’ll be doing the same functional movements. Do the BEST you can, keep track of your results for your warm up too, and improve with each workout. With enough consistency and persistency (not a word, but rhymed better sounded way better than persistence), you’ll be busting out the full warm-up routine before kicking ass at your actual workout!
Any more brain busters?
Hopefully this is a post you bookmark, as it’s probably one of the more important ones I’ve ever written.
What other questions can I answer for you about warming up properly?
I’m here to help!
PS – In last week’s post, I talked about the three keys of success at Nerd Fitness: Education, Inspiration, and Support. Well, I want to try something new around here. Starting this week, Nerd Fitness is going to follow that structure each week. Each Monday, you’ll find a post that educates you on how to live a better life. On Wednesdays, you’ll find a post that inspires you to live that better life. On Fridays, you’ll get a post full of support, including success stories and wins from your fellow rebels who are kicking ass and taking names.
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