Updated: May 23, 2022
A proper warm-up is critical to an effective training session or activity. Before you run, bike, hike, swim, golf, play tennis, or work out at the gym: warm up. While its value is science-backed and almost universally accepted, it remains the most neglected part of training and sports.
Prime your body
A good warm-up will raise your body temperature and prime the central nervous system for exercise. At rest, the body’s core is relatively cool and the blood vessels are narrow. A good warm-up will dilate those vessels, allowing for more blood flow to the muscles, superior oxygen delivery, enhanced metabolic efficiency, and central nervous system activation.
Your central nervous system, which consists of your brain and spinal cord, controls your motor function and nerve activity. Warming up allows your brain and spinal cord to build the connections with your nerves, organs and muscles.
Reduce risk of injury
Warming up also improves muscle elasticity. This converts to less chance of injuring yourself during your training session or activity. Plan on at least 10 minutes. Start with slow movements to increase mobility. Avoid static stretching (holding a stretch for a long time) and include active stretching to loosen the muscles.
Activate the muscles you plan to use in your activity. To promote better movement patterns, the final stage of the warm-up should include movements which mimic the activity to be performed.
Prep for success
It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of a proper warm-up. Athletes who are diligent with their warm-up routine will execute their activities with greater precision, comfort and effectiveness and less likelihood of injury than those who rush into an activity cold. In competitive sports, a warm-up is absolutely essential for maximizing performance.
Pros do not begin any activity without a good warm-up. Neither should you.