Monday, May 7, 2007

It's getting hot in here. Why you need to warm-up.

This is one aspect of a fitness program that everyone seems to "forget" or really, leave out. Either an individual simply doesn't allow for the time it takes, or more often than not, doesn't see the importance of it. It is very important and can make a huge impact on your performance during your routine.

A warm-up is generally described as a person preparing the body for physical activity. It can be either general in nature or more specific to the activity. A general warm-up consists of movements that do not necessarily have any movement specificity to the actual activity to be performed (i.e. walking on a treadmill or riding a bike prior to weight training). A specific warm-up consists of movements that more closely mimic those of the actual activity (i.e. unweighted squats and push-ups prior to weight lifting).

Here are a few benefits and effects of a warm-up:
  • Increases heart rate and respiratory rate, helping to increase the cardiorespiratory system's capacity to perform work. Also increasing blood flow to active muscle tissue and increases the oxygen exchange capacity.
  • Increases tissue temperature, which increases the rate of muscle contraction, increases the efficiency of opposing muscle contraction and relaxation, increases metabolic rate and increases soft tissue extensibility.
  • Increases psychological preparation and mental readiness for exercise.
There is speculation as to whether a warm-up is helpful in preventing injury. While some researchers claim benefits, others show no change. It is proposed however, that while a warm-up may not be directly associated to injury prevention, it may be beneficial for enhancing overall performance. In this case, better overall function of the body may allow for more efficient movement patterns, thus decreasing the risk of future injuries.

A warm-up should last about five to ten minutes at a low to moderate intensity. A complete warm-up should include both general and specific warm-ups, with the inclusion of cardio and flexibility programming.

For optimum results, don't neglect your warm-up. It can help to ensure superb performance in your routine and ultimately, help you to achieve your fitness goal safely and effectively.

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