While the role of warm-up exercises is well understood, many people still don't prepare properly for their workouts.
The goal of performing appropriate warm-up exercises is to improve performance, with the benefits including:
- Increased speed of contraction and relaxation of warmed muscles
- Appropriate dynamic exercises can reduce muscle stiffness
- Warm muscles perform more efficiently
- Warm muscles use oxygen more effectively.
- The heart rate gradually gets to an appropriate working rate
- You have time to get mentally focused
There are various warm up exercises you can perform, with much dependent on the workout or sport you are preparing for. However, there are several factors in common for most athletes.
The most basic component is a 5 to 10 minutes of easy cardiovascular movements - this can be running, stationary cycling, whatever is most appropriate.
In many cases this can simply be built into the start of the workout - for example, if running or biking, you simply start out slowly and take 5 to 10 minutes to get up to pace.
If you are going to be performing at a faster pace (e.g. sprint intervals), then you should also add 4 to 8 easy run outs over 30 to 60 metres, focusing on good technique while gradually picking up the pace.
For dynamic sports, dynamic stretches should also be performed - however, for most gym type workouts it is not necessary to perform static stretches at this point. They do not reduce muscle stiffness and can actually reduce the flexibility of muscles prior to a workout.
For resistance workouts, you should also perform an easy set of the specific exercise prior to working at full training weights.