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What is the Purpose of Warming Up Before Exercise?

Warming up could arguably be the most tedious part of a workout. In an era of efficiency, most people don't want to take the time to do a proper warm-up before jumping into their workout. 

As much as we may want to avoid it, warming up is incredibly necessary and we all need to do it - whether your elite athlete or a first-time gym goer warming up could make a world of difference in your workouts.

With something this important, we'll keep it brief and straight to the point.

What is the Purpose of Warming Up Before Exercise?

Warming up can seem like a tedious task but if done properly it can help with the efficiency of your workout, prevent injuries and improve performance.

Here are the three main and incredibly important reasons to efficiently warm up prior to working out:

Helps Avoid Injury

Warming up properly before a workout can reduce your risk of injury for a few reasons.

First off, the warm-up can be a good indicator of what to look out for in your training for the day. Your warm-up is going to help your body talk to you and tell you how to best navigate your training by telling you what muscle groups to focus on and which to let rest during your workout.

.For example, if you worked out your legs the day before and during your warm-up you notice your hamstrings are very sore you'll know to choose exercises that don't focus on that muscle group during your workout.

Essentially, your warm-up can tell you what muscle groups to focus on and which to let rest during your workout.

Warming up dilates your blood vessels and increases your body temperature. This can help relieve some soreness and to prepare muscles for the exercise you're about to perform as well as prepare your body for aerobic activity. 

Moral of the story? Warm up properly, even if it’s a little cumbersome and annoying, to avoid weeks of rehab down the road. Be proactive. Not reactive.

Activates Muscle Groups to Improve Your Workout Effectiveness

Activating muscle groups before you exercise can make it easier to feel if you're engaging the right muscles during your workout and helps your muscles adjust to the exercises you'll be doing. 

Most of the movement flaws you see in a gym or that your coach points out to you are likely due to a lack of proper muscle group activation.

For example, if your job requires you to sit all day, you may exercise with inactive glutes and an inactive core. This makes a movement like a deadlift especially tricky.

To counter this, spend an extra few minutes during your warmup performing glute and hamstring activation exercises. This will take you from the agonizing “all back deadlift” to a proper hinge with strong glutes and hamstrings.

Improves Flexibility and Performance 

A tight muscle is a weak muscle. To be more specific, a shortened and tight muscle cannot perform a complete range of motion exercise and any respective loading.

In order to improve your strength or work capacity in a safe manner, first work on improving your flexibility and organic range of motion. One of the best ways to do this? Stretching and mobility work. 

To improve flexibility and mobility it's important to understand that muscles typically don’t respond effectively to static stretching unless sufficiently warmed up. Take this example warm-up as a starting point.

Example Warm Up

Your warm-up may vary slightly depending on your goals and workout of the day. 

Any easy way to add a warm-up to your routine consistently is to have a core set of movements you always do and add ancillary movements to target or activate the muscle groups you're using on that particular day.  

  • 500m row (increase in speed every 100m)
  • 100 single unders (jump rope)
  • Couch stretch
  • Pigeon stretch
  • Foam rollback/ lats
  • 20 slow-banded good mornings
  • Banded overhead distraction
  • 10 Kip beats
  • 10 Toes to bar
  • 10 Cal Assault Bike Sprint

Want to learn more about how to optimize a workout? Check out our post on stepping up your CrossFit game in a few easy steps. Read it here.