Why You Must Do A Warm Up Before Your Workout
In the 1960s,martial artists from the East who came to countries like the US, UK and Australia to compete did warm-ups with little no static stretching, but lots of movements. At the same time, Eastern European coaches were getting their athletes to do lots of movements in their warm ups. These same countries would go on to dominate many of the weight lifting, judo and power type sports for many years to come. Whereas in Australia we were taught to do static stretching before you do anything as this will prevent injury. Today you will see elite athletes from every country in every sport devoting a considerable amount of time to warming up with more dynamic or balistic stretching performed as opposed to static stretching. Unfortunately that is not the same for the Fitness industry and also much of the advice that is provided in magazines, gyms and over the internet from people who do not understand how the body works.
The Toffee Analogy
One of the easiest ways to describe what happens to a muscle when it is cold is to use an analogy of toffee being kept in a fridge! When toffee is kept in the fridge overnight and you take it out it is rock hard. You cannot bend it or twist it at all. If you try to force it, all that will happen is it will snap and break in your hands into small pieces. However if you were to warm it up first, amazingly you can do many things with it by pulling it apart and moulding it into whatever shape you want.
Muscles work very much in the same way.
Which is why it is never good to stretch first thing in the morning and always better late at night.
To give you the science behind this here is an interesting study peformed on the patella tendon using 24 men of various ages who completed stretches over a 2 week period and measured the difference in the tendon from morning stretching to night stretching.
The results showed Tendon stiffness was found to decrease by 20% at 6pm compared to 8am!
Does This Mean You Should Stop Stretching?
Absolutely not. Stretching is an essential part of any training program and must be completed with an intelligent approach. Read our article below to see more about WHAT to stretch and HOW to stretch.
The point I would like to make with this article is all about WHEN to stretch. Stretching before a workout, especially when you have not warmed up is not only ineffective but DANGEROUS and more likely to injure you. Which is ironic considering stretching is used mainly to prevent injury.
Always remember this point
“STRETCHING WEAKENS MUSCLES”
This is a good thing when trying to get rid of a tight muscle that is inhibiting a weak set of muscles but it cannot be done when the body is cold.
Okay, I Understand I Need To Warm Up So What Is The Best Warm Up?
I myself like to use the rower in the studio. This is great as it gets the legs and the arms working all at once and within 3-4 minutes I feel I am pretty warm all over and need to take my long sleeves off. I also like to go for a medium effort jog sometimes. Occasionally I even run to the gym!
If I am going to do a hard running session or play sports I use a warm up similar to below.
- Knee raises – lift knee to chest.
- Bum kicks – kick your bum with your heel.
- Knee circles out to in – bring knee out to the side, thigh parallel with the floor and then into the middle of your body and down.
- Knee circles in to out – bring knee up to the middle of your chest, then out to the side of your body and back down.
- Leg swings forward – stand with left leg slightly in front of the right, swing your right leg forward and off the floor so foot is level
with hip (or higher if you are more flexible) and back down.
- Leg swings backward – swing right leg back behind you to about a 45-degree angle and back down.
- Leg swings out to in – same idea as for the knees, but with leg straight (it is a bit harder) so keep your leg straight and bring it out to the side, foot level with your hip and around to the front of your body and down.
- Leg swings in to out – bring your foot level with your hip to the front and then around to the side of your body and down.
- Chest hugs – cross both your arms across your body and hug then straighten the arms out and back to the side.
- Chest hug diagonals – same as above, but release your arms diagonally, so one hand is pointing to the floor and the other to the ceiling, squeeze in and then reverse.
I hope this clears some of the confusion surrounding stretching. Many people are still using the philosophy we were taught in school to stretch before a workout but as I explained earlier the European countries have known for a long time this is not effective at all. To get great results make sure you get to the gym at least 10 minutes early to do your warm up and trust me you will reap the rewards.