Hitting the gym from a standing start and working out with cold muscles could cause you an array of unwelcome problems as a result. Working your cold and tight muscles is not only ineffective as you are less able to exercise to your maximum potential. But you also run the risk of acute injuries, such as strains and sprains, and overusing particular muscle groups too.
So with this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why your warm-up is so important:
1. Don’t shock your body. You need to slowly, safely and steadily increase your heart rate whilst ensuring the demand on your circulatory and metabolic systems is gradual too. What’s more, the blood flow to your muscles will increase too, which means your cells will receive a greater flow of oxygen.
2. Warming up properly will increase your circulation and body / muscle temperature, so the speed and force of your muscle contractions increases as nerve impulses travel faster when your body temperature is higher. As a consequence, your muscles become looser and more pliable, and your joints become more flexible.
3. You need to prepare your muscles ready to work by gently stretching them. And remember that warm-ups are particularly important if you intend on doing high intensity interval training, sprinting, spinning, circuit training or similar exercises which involve short, sharp bursts of speed and activity.
4. Mentally prepare for your workout too by spending a few minutes putting external thoughts and influences to the back of your mind. Now is the time to start focusing on working your body instead.
Your warm-up should consist of between 5 and 15 minutes of a combination of gentle cardiovascular exercise and some light stretching too. Your perfect warm-up can include power walking / very slow and gentle jogging, plus a few dynamic muscle stretches to help prevent stiffness and injury, and some specific stretches to target the muscle groups that you intend to work.
And finally, remember that cooling down at the end of your workout is just as important as warming up effectively before you start exercising. By cooling down properly you will slowly, steadily and safely decrease your heart rate and the intensity of your workout, and will allow your body to gradually return to a state of rest.
Furthermore, integrating an effective cool down into your workout will also help to prevent uncomfortable muscle soreness by reducing the levels of lactic acid in your blood. And the risk of fainting after your workout is greatly reduced too when you cool down properly because your brain will continue to receive a sufficient supply of oxygen and blood.
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