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But I Don’t Have Time to Warm-up!

The health benefits of exercises are widely known. Decreased risk for disease, weight control, improved cardiovascular health, and improved bone health, are just a few to name. Finding time to fit in our daily 30 minutes or more of exercises can be challenging with busy school/work schedules and extracurricular activities. In an effort to “squeeze in a workout”, the warm up prior to exercise is often cut out of the regimen. This may leave individuals performing their training at a less than optimal level, as well as placing them at increased risk for injury. Without a sufficient warm up routine, muscles and joints may not be adequately prepared for the workout ahead.

A warm up typically consists of 5-20 minutes of activity performed prior to an exercise/training session or a competition. The goals of a warm up are to increase muscle mobility, increase blood flow, increase muscle temperature and improve coordination of movement patterns. An effective warm up can improve performance and decrease risk for injury. Warm up activities should focus on the body segments that will be recruited in the subsequent training session or competition and should be at an appropriate intensity to prevent fatigue (Fradkin, et al). An effective warm up routine should include the following components: 

  • a period of aerobic activity

  • dynamic stretching

  • activity specific tasks

Aerobic Activity

Aerobic activity can include walking, jogging or riding a stationary bike to increase heart rate and improve blood flow prior to exercise. This allows your body to accommodate to the higher demands that training or competition may require without going from 0 to 100. Aerobic activity during the warm up is what we call “sub-maximal”. This means that the activity is at a lower intensity than the following training session or competition in order to prevent fatigue. Submaximal aerobic activity promotes increased blood flow and an increase in body temperature that allow muscles to perform more effectively without over taxing the system. 

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching includes active movement that takes your joints through full range of motion to improve muscle pliability and decrease joint stiffness prior to activity. How is this different from static stretching? Static stretching is more passive compared to the active dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves taking your muscles and joints to the end of the available range of motion then holding for 30 to 60 seconds with the goal of improving flexibility. Research suggests that static stretching can be beneficial for improving flexibility and overall range of motion, but is recommended to be performed after a warm up or after a bout of exercise when the muscles are most pliable (Behm et al). A few examples of dynamic stretching are knee to chest, arm circles, lunge with a twist, or heel toe walking. It has been observed that dynamic stretching is most beneficial prior to exercise as a warm up. This helps improve muscle and tendon mobility and decreases joint stiffness prior to a training session or competition. 

Activity Specific Tasks

Finally, activity specific warm up is to ensure your body is ready to perform the task ahead. Focusing on specific body parts and activities that will be performed in the training session or competition to follow improves coordinated movement. It can also jump start muscle memory for specific activities to improve performance and decrease risk for injury. Examples of activity specific warm up include a progressive throwing program prior to pitching, partial to full golf swing prior to a round of golf or specific swim strokes prior to swim competition. 

All in all, it is important to at least take 5-10 mins to warm up prior to your activity to make sure you are performing at your best and reducing your risk for injury! Have you tried the warm up, but are still having trouble performing your activity effectively or without pain? Do you have specific questions about what type of warm up is best for you? 

Contact us TODAY at Dynamic Physical Therapy and Wellness to answer your questions and to help you Perform better, Live Better and Get better!


Fradkin, Andrea J1; Zazryn, Tsharni R2; Smoliga, James M3 Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2010 - Volume 24 - Issue 1 - p 140-148 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c643a0

McCrary JM, Ackermann BJ, Halaki M. A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jul;49(14):935-42. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094228. Epub 2015 Feb 18. PMID: 25694615.

Smith, CA. The warm-up procedure: To stretch or not to stretch. A brief review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 19: 12-17, 2004.

Bishop, D. Warm-up II. Performance changes following active warm-up and how to structure the warm-up. Sports Med 33: 483-498, 2003.

Behm DG, Chaouachi A. A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Nov;111(11):2633-51. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-1879-2. Epub 2011 Mar 4. PMID: 21373870.

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