People tend to want to launch right into their intensive workouts when they get to the gym; this is a common problem that we see that derives from the excitement involved with starting the first leg of the road to your fitness goals. However, the warm-up sessions that you should do before you begin the working sets are absolutely essential – not only can they stave off injury by warming up your muscles beforehand and preparing them for the work ahead, but proper pre-workout stretches can actually facilitate that work. Don’t ever let time be an undue constraint; after all, if you get injured then you just cost yourself a lot more time than the warm-up session would’ve taken.
The Many Benefits of the Warm-Up Phase
Muscle preparation is key if you want to get the most out of your coming exercise routine. Think of it this way: just a few minutes ago you were either sedentary or walking at a pace well below what’s necessary to increase your heart rate.
As a result, the muscles governing the relevant parts of your body were contracted. What does this mean? Well when you engage in physical exertion, your muscles elongate from their previously contracted position. If they do so suddenly, then the risk for injury skyrockets. This is precisely what pre-workout stretches are aimed to combat – they slowly stretch your muscles out from the contracted position in order to get them prepared for more explosive actions.
There’s a reason why pre-workout stretches are also called “warm-ups”. When done properly and for long enough, they will sufficiently loosen and make your muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. The pre-stretch in addition to the increased temperature of the body will then dramatically reduce the chances for injury.
We want to clear some things up before we get into some of the essential pre-workout stretches that you can conduct. Will also see that it is profitable to perform a range of post workout stretches, as well. To this end, stretching in place (also known as static stretching) is not very effective, as they do not properly mimic the movements that are to come when you begin exercising in earnest. Simply put – you’re not moving fast enough! Real, effective warm-up stretches will involve activities done at a moderate pace for the purposes of increasing your circulation, stretching those muscles and basically throwing motion into the mix. Here’s a short list of some of the benefits conferred by warm-up stretches:
- Warm up stretches increase the core temperature of your body – this leads to improved circulation
- Pre workout stretches also enhance the delivery of oxygen to your muscles, which allows the muscles to fire more explosively and increases endurance
- Warm up stretches are crucial for preparation for the full, intense workout to come – both physically and mentally
- Warm up stretches reduce the chances of injury to the target muscles (as well as to your body overall)
- Pre workout stretches help with flexibility
In the following article below, we’ll cover a handful of pre workout exercises (5, to be exact) that have proven to be effective for the intense routine that follows. A proper warm up is so important that you should even consider buying a yoga mat to help facilitate actually performing them – the mat will remind you to do these dynamic stretches. Here goes…
1.) First Pre Workout Stretch: The Child’s Pose
Don’t be full by the name – the child’s pose pre-workout stretch has been known to benefit adults tremendously. In fact, there’s a decade-old medical research study showing that this yoga pose was able to enhance the sleep quality for cancer patients undergoing treatment at the time. Without further ado, let’s jump right into how you properly perform this beneficial warm-up.
- Begin by assuming the kneeling position on the yoga mat you previously laid out. When you kneel, make sure that both knees are spread out to either side of your hips, with your feet stretched out behind you and your heels touching one another.
- Now comes the breathing: first take a deep breath, and then exhale slowly. You can repeat this once if you like.
- Next you’re going to get into position. To do so, first spread your midsection/torso into position over your thighs; simultaneously push her but down into your heels as your arms stretch out in the forward direction. Make sure to position your ribs away from the tailbone as you lengthen your spine and neck. Continuing with this position, lift the top of your head slowly away from your shoulders.
- Lower your four head down onto the yoga mat.
- Once your four head is on the yoga mat, keep it there and breathe in and out deeply three times slowly.
Understanding the Benefits to Your Health
- You might be asking yourself, “How exactly does this Child’s Pose yoga routine benefit my health?” First and foremost, it helps to open up your shoulders and back.
- Additionally, like most proper pre-workout stretches, the Child’s Poles will fully stretch your tired, stiff and sore limbs to prepare them for rapid elongation during the actual workout.
- In addition to the practical benefits, you also experience a pronounced soothing of your thighs, shoulders and ankles – in fact, you will experience this throughout your body.
- The Child’s Pose yoga pose also aids the circulation of blood through your veins.
- Many people report experiencing a benefit to their digestion process, as well.
- Because of the position of the crown of your head during the latter phase of the pose, you will experience better blood flow to that region.
- Before you commit all the way, try the Child’s Pose position for a single minute if you arrive at your office feeling tightness and aches.
2.) Second Pre-Workout Stretch: The Donkey Kick
If you elicited a slight chuckle when you first heard of the “Donkey Kick” pre-workout stretch – welcome to the party because we laughed too. After the initial introduction, however, we quickly learned that it is no laughing matter because of its effectiveness in wanting up your body properly for the workout to come.
The Donkey Kick is one of the best stretches we’ve ever encountered when it comes to preparing your gluteus maximus for an intense workout – whether that is running, squatting or the dead lift. Not only does this movement isolate your group muscle, it also prepares your shoulders and the all-important core for a serious exercise session. Let’s jump right into how to perform the Donkey Kick.
- First you have to get yourself into the proper position: get down on your yoga mat on all fours and make sure that your needs are under your hips and your palms are facing down such that your wrists are under your shoulders. If you doing this properly, you will feel your core/midsection being engaged similar to a plank.
- One noteworthy point: in order to avoid your back from becoming sore with the movement to come, put your spine in a neutral position because if you arch your back, this paves the way for soreness to set in.
- Next, bend your knee and flex your right foot before performing a backwards kick using your right leg in a motion directed upwards; envision that you are trying to kick the ceiling with the flat of your foot. Make sure to pause at the top of this motion.
- After the pause, lower your right leg back to the floor until you need touches the yoga mat – you just completed one rep.
- For a proper warm-up, do a total of 5 of these Donkey Kick motions for both your right and left legs (that would be 5 each).
Healthcare Benefits of the Donkey Kick
- First of all, when you are performing them it quickly becomes clear that these stretches help with your stability, and also with toning your leg muscles.
- Donkey Cakes also give your core-midsection as well as your shoulder muscles a workout.
- Your overall posture will be improved.
- If you have an office position where you’re seated at a desk all day, or work from home similarly, then the Donkey Kick pre-workout stretch will be especially beneficial because it counters the muscles you use when sitting down – which provides balance.
3.) The Cat-Cow Stretch
As we saw up above, the Donkey Kick prestretch warm-up movement works pretty well for those who remain sedentary for long stretches of time. In the next example, we have the so-called Cat-Cow stretch; this one is even more helpful than the previous stretch for office workers who have to remain sitting for the bulk of the day.
- This is especially important because there are loads of research studies which show that sedentary workers are at greater risk for developing health problems later on. The reasoning is quite simple: the flow of blood through your veins is impeded from much of the day, and thus your metabolism slows down and is less capable of burning calories and fat.
- In addition to these blood flow problems, it is not at all uncommon to experience back stress and the pain that results from sitting for long hours at a time. Here’s a bullet point list of ways that the Cat Cow stretch helps with that.
- First get down on your yoga mat and position your shoulders over your wrists by leaning forward; this will also ensure that your hips are positioned over your knees. This is called the table-top position.
- While maintaining this position, breathe in slowly and at the same time push her back up so that your spine is rounded and lower your head to the floor as you raise your back to the ceiling. Now you can see why this is called the cat pose.
- In this next movement you will see where the other animal comes into play. Slowly breathe in while lifting your tailbone, chest and head up towards the ceiling making sure that your lower back is arched. This is called the cow pose.
- Perform this exact same series of movements three times in a row slowly and with control before your pre-warm-up workout is concluded.
Health Benefits of the Cat-Cow Stretch
- When performed regularly, this stretch will definitely improve your posture and your balance.
- This something about the controlled breathing and the movements that relieves stress and thus confers emotional balance – both of these lead to a calmer mind.
- The Cat Cow pose has also been known to help assuage moderate back pain.
- Due to the stretching of the midsection, this stretch stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands.
- Although it’s not particularly complicated, it is an involved motion that will end up increasing your coordination overall.
- This pose will strengthen your abdomen, your hips, back, spine and neck through useful stretching.
4.) The Runner’s Lunge from the Down Dog Stretch
This is actually two movements combined into one – you start with the Down Dog position and move onto the Runners Lunge; it activates the muscles in the quadriceps, hip flexors, inner thighs and hamstring by stretching them. It’s also called the Crescent Lunge by practitioners of yoga. Let’s get right into this warm-up.
- First get down on your hands and knees and make sure to stack your knees under the hips and to stack your hands under the shoulders.
- Now taking care to pressure index finger and thumb into the floor, spread your hands apart.
- While holding this position, lift up your tailbone by pushing your gluteus maximus and hips upwards in the direction of the ceiling or the sky. You will find this movement easier if you plant your heels downward and try to keep your legs as straight as possible.
- Keep your head positioned between your arms and looking backwards towards the knees; your back should be as straight as you can keep it. Hold this position for a second as you move forward into the plank position – only now will you be able to move your right foot toward your right hand on the outside.
- Now lift up your torso into a lunge to get into the second portion of the movement; you should be squeezing your gluteus maximus as you do so.
- That counts for a single rep; you have three more to do per side before you’re done.
Health Benefits of the Down Dog and the Runner’s Lunge Stretch
- You will notice that your balance and flexibility improve over time from this combined stretch. There’s also a mental aspect to it since it comes from yoga and the serenity emphasized by this routine.
- This stretch enhances your concentration and awareness as well.
- As a warm up to a full body workout, the Down Dog to Runners Lunge prepares your groin, calves, hamstrings, quads and ankles.
- It will also stimulate your abdominal organs and increase the circulation of your blood through your veins.
- It has been known to assuage the sciatica nerve as well as chronic pain you may have been feeling in your back, hips and legs.
5.) The Bird Dog Crunch Warm Up Stretch
- The fifth and final stretch that will be covered in this review is a dynamic exercise that once again employs only your body weight. You begin the movement by first getting down on your hands and knees and extending one lay in one arm straight in front of you in straight behind you.
- Before we get more in-depth with a bullet point list of the required actions, you should know that this is a full core workout challenge that will have benefits for your strength, stability, mobility and balance.
- From the position of your hands and knees on the ground, move your wrists directly underneath your shoulders and your needs directly underneath your hips.
- Now I stated above, put your left arm straight out in front of you and your right leg straight out behind you while keeping your back straight and parallel to the floor.
- As you squeeze your midsection bring your left elbow and right knee in towards your midsection slowly.
- Move your body back to neutral with your palms and knees on the floor, and then do the exact same movement with the opposite sides of your body (right arm extended in front of you and left leg extended behind you).
- The above is a single rep; do three of these on each side and if you really want a challenge hold the position for about 5 seconds each.
Insofar as benefits are concerned with the Bird Dog Crunch, you’ll find that not only is your stability improve, but if you’ve got any lower back pain, it finds some relief. Your posture will be improved, and your back muscles, hips and core will have a greater range of motion and be more well- conditioned.
We hope that we’ve been able to emphasize the importance of stretching in this article. Indeed, the National Strength and Conditioning Association consistently puts out strong recommendations that fitness enthusiasts as well as athletes to perform these pre-workout stretches before you launch into your intense exercise session.
Simply put, they will significantly reduce the chance of injury by preparing your body for more explosive motions. You’ll be able to successfully complete wider ranges of motion when you do a pre-workout warm-up – and it should only take a few minutes of your time. Stretching is an essential part of working out for everyone from the bodybuilder to the occasional runner. Not only does stretching confer physical benefits, but it also helps with awareness and concentration.
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