How to warm up effectively

The warm up is one of those aspects of training that gets pushed to the side when short on time, or not feeling up for the training session. There’s no set warm up routine to follow, but simply jumping on the treadmill for a steady 10-minute walk is not sufficient for a movement based routine. Also, it doesn’t get you mentally ready for a training session like a thought-out, productive warm up.

A good warm up routine serves many purposes, the main one being minimising the risk of injury. Warm ups increase circulation, body temperature, and gradually raise your heart rate.  Increasing your core temperature, and keeping the muscles warm, will prevent injury. Following a routine (not just jumping on a bike for 10 minutes), will prepare you, mentally and physically, for exercise ahead.

Warm ups are just as important as the workout itself. It should only take between 20-30 minutes to execute a proper warm up. From this, blood flow to your muscles will increase, making the delivery of nutrients required for energy production easier.

Below, I’ve listed some different areas to include in your warm. Spend 20 minutes practicing some of these methods at the beginning of your next training session and see how you feel.

 Myofasical Release – foam roller

More and more people are becoming friendly with this piece of equipment, several years ago it was only used by athletes and coaches. You can pick them up from most sport stores and still walk out with change from a £20 note.

The main purpose of a foam roller is to release any muscle tightness - a DIY massage. If you feel tight/have knots in certain areas of your body that have an effect on your movement, applying pressure to that specific point will help to speed up recovery, and help the muscle return back to normal function. I will warn you now, it is painful, but very rewarding. By targeting those knots on a regular basis, the muscle will regain elasticity and function. Stretching alone won't diminish the knot, but could make it tighter and more irritating. Think of a knotted elastic band, by pulling each end, you just make the knot tighter and harder to undo.

Hip mobility

With the fitness industry booming, and gyms opening left, right and centre - all offering functional training - (exercises such as deadlifts, lunges and squats) it seems a lot of people think squats were invented by Instagram #notsurewhy.  With this in mind, it's extremely important to perform these sorts of exercises correctly. The hips must be able to transfer force from the ground, and through the spine. Increasing your mobility will increase the range of motion at the hip; prevent future injuries in your hips, knee and ankles, and lastly prepare the surroundings of the hips for recovery - muscle, tendon and ligaments.

Ankle mobility

'I saw that! Yawning! OK, I get it, ankle mobility seems very boring and dated when it comes to modern fitness technology, and fashionable exercises and tag lines #sheanklemobilises.

This simple warm up will assist your squat as well as many other exercises, along with reducing the risk of injury. The ankle is a hinge joint, which means it is only able to move in one plane of motion. The two movements are plantarflexion (downwards) and dorsiflexion (upwards). Having your ankles fully mobilised will help distribute any extra weight evenly through each heel, and enable the spine to be in a neutral position.

Clock lunge

This is a great way to get you physically and mentally ready for exercise. It's an exercise that you need to think about; you need to use your brain to think about where you’re placing your feet when performing the lunges. It works every muscle in your lower body and core to build strength.

Hindu Press Ups

This is a great exercise to target all the upper and lower body with just one exercise – working shoulders, legs, back hips, core and chest all at the same time. It stimulates the mind to connect with the body to perform each rep. This again is preparing you for the up and coming exercise. Other benefits include an increase in strength, and helping to promote flexibility.

When performing the Hindu press up, always make sure the rep is controlled. Most people think you’ll gain more when performing explosive press ups. The Hindu press up is the total opposite; you will inhale while you press, instead of exhaling.

Hope & Hold

If do you like explosive warm ups, this is a great exercise. It’s highly used by many athletes who need quick explosive movements, such as footballers who need to be able to change direction and speed as quickly as possible. As well as increasing your explosive movement, it will also enhance your ability to decelerate.

Box Jump

This is another plyometric/explosive exercise. Box jumps can vary in height, from using a small deck step to a plyometric box. Always start off small to assess the exercise and your technique. Remember, technique is much more important the size of the box (size doesn’t matter after all). The main benefit of the box jump is that it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers throughout the body. Your legs and core are the main source of energy on both the acceleration and deceleration phase. So, unlike some exercises your deceleration phase is the easy part, however on a box jump, you depend on your quadriceps to land properly.

I hope that this helps you to create your own effective warm up routine. If you have any questions, get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.

Ben Pryor, personal trainer and Nourish co-founder.