Why Do We Warm Up?

A question often raised by the typical CoachPACT client who is short on time is, “Can I skip the warm up”?

Unfortunately, the answer is no! You have probably heard that warming up helps prevent injury. I can confirm that it does, along with offering many more benefits to exercise which I will discuss here. Think of a warm up as an important component of your session that will help prepare the body for the activity that you are about to undertake. Generally we follow the RAMP protocol when warming up: Raise, Activate, Mobilise and Potentiate.

We raise the body’s core temperature through a pulse raiser i.e. movement preparation such as jogging, skipping and jumping. We activate the prime movers by preparing the major muscle groups you will use in the session. We mobilise the main joints: ankle, hip, t-spine and shoulders. We potentiate the nervous system by performing a variety of hops and bounds.

Warming up increases exercise performance. It is usually considered a rehearsal of the main movements you will undertake in the session. You are gradually increasing your heart rate which is pumping oxygenated blood around the body, transporting nutrients to working muscles. This sudden increase in blood flow primes and prepares the body for the session ahead.

Warming up reduces the oxygen debt that occurs at the start of a session. When you begin any activity there is an oxygen cost. The body goes from requiring very little oxygen to function; think of sitting at a desk or walking and the normal breathing rate required to maintain either of these. When we begin to exercise the sudden increase in heart rate leads to an increase in the demand for oxygen to be transported around the body. At times you may feel breathless and an increase in your breathing rate is one way of knowing that your body is trying to catch up and get the required oxygen into the body and working muscles. This is normal and is good preparation for the session that you are about to undertake.

A good point to note for our clients using MyZone heart rate technology to monitor performance is that warming up can help you earn more MyZone Effort Points (MEPs) for your session. As you progress from the warm up and begin a training session your heart rate is already elevated, ensuring that you will get into the adequate training zones needed to achieve your goals much quicker. The higher your heart rate is and the harder you train the more MEPs you get.  If you skip a warm up it will take at least 10 minutes before your body adapts to the training stimulus and the required physiological adaptations to training occur such as an increase in heart rate and breathing rate.

Warming up reduces the risk of injury and ensures that you are physically and mentally prepared for more strenuous physical activity. As well as this, if you complete a good quality 5-10 minute warm up you can earn more MEPs, which could be the difference you reaching your monthly target or not. With this in mind I would advise that you always warm up before exercise despite the short amount of time you may have to complete your session.