Effects and Benefits of a Proper Warm-up
A proper warm-up increases your cardiorespiratory system's ability to do work. It also makes your body more efficient in the amount of oxygen that it is able to absorb and utilize. This increased efficiency improves the flow of blood to your heart, which reduces your risk of suffering exercise-induced cardiac abnormalities.
The amount of time you spend on your warm-up should be based upon the length and intensity of your workout. For example, a fifteen-minute warm-up is sufficient for an hour-long workout at a level of moderate to high intensity. However, a workout of two to four hours in length, within that same intensity range, would need a warm-up of between thirty minutes to an hour.
A proper warm-up causes the body's temperature to rise, thus reducing your risk for experiencing the many exercise-related injuries that can be inflicted upon a “cold” muscle structure. This also protects you from damaging the very precious connective tissue in your muscles and joints. Tendon and cartilage damage can be devastating to anyone, and especially to a competitive athlete.
Whenever there is an increase of blood flow to the muscles that are going to be exercised, the muscles become warmer and thus more elastic for stretching. Your blood vessels dilate, reducing the resistance of your pulmonary system to blood flow. This decreases the amount of stress that is being put on your heart.
As blood flow increases, the temperature of your blood also increases as it makes its way through your muscles. Hemoglobin more readily releases oxygen at higher temperatures. This translates into an increased volume of oxygen being made available to the muscles you are working, which will improve your level of muscular endurance.
A proper warm-up increases the speed of nerve impulses so that the communication between the brain and the muscles improves, yet another effect of increased temperature and heart rate. An increase in nerve conduction helps your body's ability to move. The increase in your nerve functions will also lead to more speed in muscular transitions between contraction and relaxation.
For example, whenever you deliver a punch, as your triceps contract, your biceps relax. However, when recoiling/returning your punching hand back to its original position, it is now the biceps that contract while the triceps relax. Warming up makes this cycle more efficient and means less energy is wasted.
Warming up increases the lubrication of your joints and prepares them for larger, faster, and stronger movements. It is important for your joints to be well lubricated in order to avoid any unnecessary friction. Again, if you begin engaging in strenuous exercise with cold joints, you are just asking for muscular-skeletal injury.
Joint rotations are a critical part of any warm-up, and you should pay special attention to the notorious problem area joints. Professional and recreational athletes alike often experience the same injuries regardless of what sport they play — torn knee ligaments, dislocated shoulders, and displaced hips to name just a few.
Some researchers continue to debate whether a warm-up will decrease muscle soreness. However, a somewhat general consensus of fitness experts agrees that warming up prior to a workout does in fact decrease muscle soreness if performed during the early stages of an exercise routine.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may find it hard to get your body moving when you are experiencing muscle soreness as a result of a previous workout. A proper warm-up can help temporarily decrease the amount of soreness you are feeling, making it easier for you to get through future training sessions more comfortably.
You may notice that you feel stiff from not moving. Maybe you sit at a desk at your job all day long or have an unusually long daily commute that has you sitting in a car or train for hours. Getting up, doing a few simple movements, and ending with some light stretching will help alleviate this stiffness as well as cause you to feel energetic and rejuvenated.
With a proper warm-up, you may be more likely to go all out in your workout without fearing an injury. Most people have a sense of when their body is properly ready to do an activity. If you do not feel like your body is ready to work harder, kick higher, or punch stronger, it's likely you will not, especially if it feels like it is going to hurt or injure you if you do. This is a perfect example of listening to your body and progressing to the next level of intensity when it feels appropriate.
Forget the “no pain, no gain” philosophy when it comes to your body. Pain is your body's most effective form of communicating with you. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. If it hurts you (there is a big difference between pain and discomfort) to push harder, stretch farther, or kick higher, then don't.
Warming up also prepares your mind to focus sharper on your self as a whole. Being more focused on “you” means an increased awareness of what is going on inside your body. This is important not only to prevent injury but also in helping you to realize when you need to make adjustments in your alignment so you can self-correct any technical points that may be needed to perform well.