What Makes a Good Warm-Up?

Every workout you have ever done at Vegvisir has a Warm-Up. Whether it is a heavy lifting day with the hardest AMRAP ever or a recovery day, we take about 8-12 minutes each day to make sure that you are ready for whatever the WOD is.

Now, you probably already know that warm-ups are part of prevention and we have heard that muscles are like rubber bands. How about we break that down a bit and talk about why warm-ups are important for life long health and performance!

The Science of Warming Up

Your muscles are amazing organs. They are bands of fibers that work together to pull the bones of your body with enough force to potentially lift 3-3.5x your body weight. They do this all while being powered by blood filled with nutrients from food and oxygen from your lungs. They adapt to our needs every day and protect us against injury. 

Now, why warm them up? They sound amazing and should be able to overcome anything. The answer comes down to our fascia tissue. View fascia as the coating on an electrical wire and those wires are your muscles. Fascia helps give rigidity to muscle (it’s without this that sharks would be quite squishy and floppy). It also is a pressure gate that controls that amount of blood flow within a certain muscle (hence why rolling out knots is called Myofascial Release). 

When our muscles are “cold” the blood flow to the fascia is minimal and the muscles are in a tighter resting position. When we “warm up” we are actually telling our body to send blood into our muscles. The more our fascia tissue expands, the more blood flow that goes through the muscles. When done right, a proper warm-up can temporarily increase the force at which your muscles can contract. In short, warming up makes your muscles stronger. 

Snapping Like A Rubber Band

When we say warm-up, we literally mean we are making the muscles warmer. This is where that analogy we’ve all heard about muscles and rubber bands comes into play!

In order to move our skeleton, our muscles need to contract and relax in tandem with their opposing muscle groups. Wanna do a small demonstration? Let your right arm relax all the way to the point where it is dangling. Now touch your right shoulder with your right hand. Feel with your left hand the bicep and how it is balled up? Feel the back of the arm and how it is softer to the touch? This is how every group in your body works. 

Now think of that rubber band. Let’s throw it in the freezer. Take it out after 12 hours and pull on either end. It snaps right? Why did it snap? We limited the bands natural elasticity and then provided forces that went beyond it’s limit. 

The same thing applies to your muscles, when we try to apply the force we would use for our 1 rep max deadlifts to a cold muscle, it’s like pulling on that frozen band. If we go beyond that elastic limit, we can cause damage to the muscle. If we warm up to that weight instead, the blood flow that we experience warms the fibers and fascia tissue, creating a more elastic muscle and thus a safe muscle.

(Fun Fact: The protein that gives your muscle it’s elasticity is called Titin). 

A Good Warm-Up Requires Balance

Now to warm-up properly we now know a few things; we gotta improve blood flow and increase muscle elasticity. So, go run 400m and stretch for 10 minutes right? 

Well, not really. Our muscles like to live in a Goldilocks zone! If don’t warm up enough, the muscle is cold and risks injury. If we stretch our muscles too much or warm-up too hard, we risk injuring ourselves through having too much range of motion or suffering an over-use injury.

(This zone is why it isn’t recommended to hold long stretches before working out. Not only do you risk injury by being hyper mobile, you have a reduction in power because the muscle can’t contract as forcefully). 

A proper warm-up gets you warm by including movements that promote high blood flows to the regions that will be used for the day. That’s why you’ll see burpees in a warm-up for wall walks or bike intervals on a squat day. If you feel like you’re at 70-80% of max effort, you’re in that proper warm-up zone!

In order to stretch, we choose movements that cause you to push your range of motion for very short periods of time (3-5 seconds per rep). Things like Russian Baby Makers and Hindu Push-Ups are great for telling our bodies to loosen up and get ready for a workout. By the end of these movements you should feel a little bounce in your muscles and not have any stiffness.

Keep Warming Up!

No matter how little time there is in the day or how excited you are to lift, a warm-up should always be part of your training routine for the day. After all, it only takes 10 minutes to get warm, it takes another 2 months to heal a pulled hamstring. 

Keep treating your muscles right and you’ll be hitting strength PRs way into your 40s and be playing with your grandkids into your 90s. 

If you wanna learn how to workout with a proper warm-up or just want to come in workout and have someone else focus on making a great warm-up for you, click that “Free Intro” button at the top right of your screen to schedule a time to meet with one of our amazing Vegvisir Coaches today to take the next step in your fitness journey!

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