For most sports, if not all, flexibility and strength are paramount. Before you jump into a workout, it’s important that you take the time to warm up muscles and prepare your bodies so that you can perform at your optimum level. When warming up, you want to be careful to avoid ‘stretching’, per se, and stick to a warm up that gradually prepares muscles for the workout ahead. There are several things to remember when warming up for a workout, and here is some expert advice to help.
It’s important to get your heart rate up prior to a work out to establish a pace and tone for your time at the gym. When your heart rate is up, your muscles will perform better because blood is pumping through them faster, you’ll be able to do more, or lift more when your heart rate is active.
When you’re busy getting your heart rate up, preparing for your time at the gym, briefly meditate on what your goals are for that day. This will help you have something to focus on when you hit that mid-workout slump.
The breath is central to the body’s performance. When you don’t breathe correctly, you can become light headed, nauseous, and even faint. Breathing is a great way to regulate the body; deep rhythmic breathing will help keep your workout on pace and help prevent you from getting winded.
It’s important to remember that we must stretch the body evenly. What you do to one side of the body, you must do to the other. It’s key to stretch evenly to make sure muscle flexibility- and stability are the same, if you stretch the back of a muscle, you need to stretch the front, and vice-versa.
Keeping the body hydrated is key to having a successful workout and to increasing muscles flexibility. Being hydrated allows the body to perform better and therefore allows you to work in the gym for longer.
Stretching prior to a workout can cause muscle strain and misalignment of joints. You want to make sure to stretch when muscles are already warm, that way the muscle is prepared for the stretch and flexibility can be increased, post-workout is the perfect time to stretch muscles. Picture a rubber band, if cold when stretched it will snap, but when warm, it’s stretchy and flexible, just like muscles.
Though you do want to make sure to get the best stretch possible for each muscle, you want to be careful to stretch safely, and not overdo it. Make sure you stretch until you feel a moderate pull, once you feel pain in the muscle, or see muscles tensing or shaking, you need to slowly pull back out of the stretch and return to where it feels comfortable.
Never bounce up and down to push further into a stretch. Every time you stretch, you should be gradually reaching into it, slowly allowing muscles to elongate. Bouncing up and down, to say, reach your toes, will only prove to be counterproductive, causing soreness in the muscles and even hyperextension of the joints.
Though it may feel good to stretch out sore, achy muscles, don’t do it! Muscles are sore and achy from damage sustained from a previous workout or other physical activity. Stretching injured muscles can cause more rips and tears, making the healing process longer, and causing you to have to sit out an extra day. Make sure muscles are healthy and uninjured before any workout or post-workout stretch.
Keeping muscles loose and free of injury is part of any important workout regime, so stretching is crucial. You must remember to stretch muscles when they are warm and pliable, like after a workout, to prevent injury and tearing. Remembering to keep hydrated and to regulate breathing are two of the most important parts of a warm up, hydration and rhythmic breathing will help muscles into and out of their stretches, and will pay off in the gym.
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Photo Credits: Warm Ups by Flickr: Terry Johnston; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com