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You have probably heard this by now but you shouldn’t jump right into any kind of physical activity without warming up. Why do we “warm-up”? Here is why. Throughout the day, your muscles are “cool” and stiff without much blood pumping through them. To exercise a muscle, we want it to be loose and pumped with blood in order for it to be ready for movement. If you do not warm up to pre-condition your muscles for the workout you will risk having a limited range of motion, poor performance, and injuries. Warming up has a serious impact on how well you do during your workouts.

Dynamic Stretching and Warming Up
Here are the basics of stretching: Static and Dynamic. Static stretching is holding a stretch for a period of time, usually 15 seconds or more. Dynamic stretching is moving your body through a range of motion that stretches a muscle group. For example, doing lunge torso twists and leg swings before performing lunges. Dynamic stretching is key to a proper warm-up. It is not so much about the stretch itself that warms up your muscles and rather the movements themselves that activate the muscles to be used in your workout.
Focus on the MOVEMENTS that activate the targeted muscles. You can then hold the stretches that challenge your range of motion for 5-10 seconds. DO NOT HOLD LONG STATIC STRETCHES BEFORE RESISTANCE TRAINING. Static stretching is best kept after your workout or on your rehabilitation days.

Muscle Activation
As mentioned, you want to focus on the movements that help to activate the muscles you are about to work; i.e. you are slowly preparing the muscles for the load. Think of activation exercises as simple movements that help to mimic the movements and the muscle activation of the actual exercise. For example, swinging yourself down to a few weight-free sumo squats before your weighted sumo squats will help you practice and ease into your range of motion, activate your quad and gluteal muscles and perfect posture. Similarly, performing a few core drills before any heavy lifts will help get your core muscles fired up and working to support your torso before you lift heavy.

Final Takeaway
The next time you plan your warm-up make sure it includes 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches! Your dynamic stretches should focus on movements that hit your range of motion, “mimicking” your workout movements and activating the muscles to be used. Static stretching before resistance training is a NO! Cardio can be included but the idea here is to get your body warm and your blood pumping before your dynamic stretching or activation exercises. You shouldn’t be on the treadmill for more than 10 minutes. A 5-minute fast walk should be enough to get you going. Once again, this shouldn’t be your only warm-up. Include another 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches and activation exercises before you begin your workout.