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A common question we have here regularly at fitFLEX is what is the best way to warm up before starting a workout, and is stretching
an effective means? Well let's take a closer look at the popular subject.
The purpose of "warming up," as the expression implies, is to increase blood flow to your muscles and raise your core body temperature. This effectively increases joint mobility and makes muscles more elastic. Common sense also suggests that warm muscles are less susceptible to injury, although research isn't conclusive in support of this theory.
While stretching in itself can warm up muscle tissue and loosen joints, it should never be used as your primary warm-up activity. In fact, the benefits of stretching are best realized when it's done after a complete warm-up that includes moderate, low-impact aerobic activity The aerobic activity you select to kick off your warm-up routine should involve a repetitive, low-impact movement that utilizes the larger muscle groups for 5-10 minutes. Any activity that raises your heart rate and elevates your core body temperature is good, but rowing machines and some cross-training machines are particularly useful because they involve your legs and back (as well as the chest, in the case of the latter). As soon as you start to break a sweat, your muscles should be sufficiently warmed up and ready for more vigorous activity.
After 10 minutes of cardio warm-up, it's safe to stretch your muscles. Although some research suggests that stretching warms the deep muscle fibers, little evidence supports the immediate benefits of stretching before lifting weights for bodybuilders and other athletes. For this reason, many lifters choose to stretch after their workouts, when their muscles are the warmest and most pliable. Under these conditions, the best results are achieved when stretches are held for at least 30 seconds.
Following your general warm-up, make sure you go through a specific warm-up before you begin high-intensity training. Start each exercise with several light warm-up sets to get the muscles, joints and mind ready for the work to come. Whether you stretch before hitting the iron is your personal choice. Just remember, always start with 5-10 minutes of cardio to warm up before your warm-up!