Why the Warm Up Is the Most Important Part of Your Workout
Before asking your body to spring into any athletic endeavor, it is crucial to activate key muscles. Over time, routine preparation will increase range of motion and optimizes performance.
Skipping a warm up before an athletic activity is a cardinal sin in the church of functional fitness. Jumping in, so to speak, before your body is warm and engaged is the quickest road to dysfunction and muscle imbalance.
But even if you do take the time to stretch, chances are you’re not doing much for your total body function. The problem with static stretching (bend over and touch your toes, lunge forward and hold) is it doesn’t actually help warm your muscles or encourage joint movement. In fact, static stretching is no help in improving performance or reducing injury risk, reports a meta-analysis in Research in Sports Medicine.
However, dynamic stretching improves range of motion (ROM) and performance long-term, according to a study review in Sports Medicine. “Most warm ups involve static stretching—lean, hold, then switch sides—when what you really want is dynamic stretching, which moves your body through functional movement,” explains Colby Hazelip, trainer at Elev8d Fitness. Indeed, when various athletes warmed up with dynamic stretches, soccer players saw more hip ROM, lifters saw more power output, and dancers saw better balance, jump height and ROM.
“We’ve created active primers designed specifically for particular sport—tennis, running, cycling, you name it,” says Hazelip. The goal? Increased ROM.
What Is ROM?
Every joint—depending on whether it’s a hinge joint, a ball and socket, and so on—is supposed to move in a range of directions. “Range of motion, or ROM, is literally the distance that your joints can move in any direction, which is very important in determining flexibility,” explains Hazelip. “When it comes to sports or workouts—increasing range of motion directly increases the amount of positions your body can be in, safely and strongly.”
The point of a warm up is to increase ROM by creating flexibility and leveraging strength at the same time—that is, preparing your muscles for the work they’re about to do. The only way to actually increase flexibility is for the spindles in your muscle fibers to be prompted to lengthen, Hazelip explains. If you go through a traditional, static warm up—aggressively reaching down to touch your toes or lunging forward harshly—the muscle spindles react to this sudden intensity by grabbing on a little more, tightening up. This contraction the opposite of what you want.
But when you go slower and move through a greater range of motion rather than holding a static stretch, the spindle fibers loosen up, increasing overall length and therefore flexibility. That’s exactly why Elev8d Sports Primers move you through a specific sequence of motions and there is no elongated hold.
Elev8d Sports Primers
The three to four moves highlighted in each primer are specifically chosen to activate the muscles needed for the sport at hand. “You don’t want to jump into a run and use muscles you haven’t moved today. Every sport has a different physiological ask so each primer is designed accordingly. For example, the running primer preps your core, hips, and lower body, while the golf primer focuses on loosening your back, shoulders, and hips,” he explains.
The advantage: lower injury risk and improved performance. “There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re a little too slow to the play or a little to tight in one area,” Hazelip says. “But your shoulder is never going to feel less tight in your tennis game if you aren’t doing anything to loosen it.” What’s more, trying to swing a racket with limited range of motion is asking for an eventual injury.
“I used to be pretty imbalanced, but when I started doing Elev8d before going into heavy lifts at the gym, my body felt much more symmetrical and I was in a more calm physical position. Fixing muscle imbalances and activating your body before exercising brings a surprising amount of control and balance. Ultimately, I can workout longer and harder,” concludes Hazelip.
Elev8d Fitness has developed the perfect warm up for the popular sports below. Give dynamic stretching a try!
Tennis – Moving in varied directions with speed and power risks injury without a specialized, targeted warm up. This primer is designed to activate the hip flexors and core muscles and to increase range of motion in the shoulders and hips.
Swimming – These warm up and cooldown exercises are designed specifically to accompany the dynamism of swimming. The exercises will not only improve roll, extension and efficiency, they will also reset subtle asymmetries that are inevitable with repetitive aerobic exercises.
Cycling – It is crucial to activate the hips and shoulders and align the load-bearing joints before a ride. If your posture is off, your power output suffers. This specialized warm up will correct muscle imbalances and activate core muscle groups so you can ride at max efficiency.
Golf – Before swinging a club, it is essential to warm the core and hip flexors so that your swing is more fluid and powerful. These five dynamic exercises will free up your range of motion and release tense muscles so that you can hit your lowest scores yet.
Basketball – Because basketball is a fast, all-out endurance sport—where every jump, juke, and lunge is intended to be quick and powerful—there are endless opportunities for injury. This short, alignment-based warm up restores full range of motion, allows the core to fire safely and efficiently, and establishes stability in the hips.