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Finding the Proper Stretch: 5 Ways to Get a Proper Warm-Up to Avoid Injury

Finding the Proper Stretch: 5 Ways to Get a Proper Warm-Up to Avoid Injury

Life is hectic; cut out the stress, the negative emotions, poor body mechanics, but don’t cut out the humble workout warm-up.

The Science Behind It

A good warm-up will prepare you physically and mentally for your workout. The movements and stretches should increase the circulation and blood flow to your muscles and literally “warm” them up. Why is this a good thing? Warmed muscles are less likely to be stiff, and the increased blood flow means increased oxygen and power to that area. The nerves and joints are also activated by a warm-up, which allows for quicker reactions and smoother movements. In addition to the physical benefits, mental preparation during a warm-up will help you to achieve your personal goals through visualization of the different steps of your workout and using it as a time to get your head in the game.

How to Do it

Most experts agree that the warm-up should reflect the workout in terms of what stretches or aerobic moves should be employed. For instance, if you will be running, a light jog or speed walk could be an efficient warm-up.

A warm-up can range anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. If stretches will be a part of your warm-up, we recommend dynamic stretching instead of static stretching. Static stretching is stretching or staying in a certain position holding that stretch. Often times this can induce an injury by forcing a “cold” muscle to overstretch. Pre-workout stretches should be dynamic, meaning a flow of movement or range of motion is taking place. For example, moving your arms in a circle, or doing shoulder raises.

Getting a Proper Warm-Up

No workout is the same, but following the guidelines of having your warm-up match your workout in terms of range of motion, we’ll discuss 5 different ways of warming up that might work for you.

  • Speed walking or Jogging

    • If done properly it can engage the core, the arms, and the lower extremities. It is a low intensity aerobic warm-up but can help loosen up stiff muscles and prepare the joints for increased movement.
  • Knee to the Chest

    • This dynamic stretch is performed standing up. Lift one knee up to the chest and hold for 2 seconds. Keep shoulders down and back straight.
    • Release and repeat with other leg.
    • Repeat for 10 times on each side.
  • Leg Swings

    • This dynamic stretch is good for your hips and hamstrings.
    • Begin in a standing position and holding onto a chair or the wall, swing one leg forward and backward as if kicking an invisible ball. Do this for at least 10 times.
    • Repeat with the other side.
  • Vinyasa Sequence

    • This stretch is a basic series of stretches performed in Yoga. It engages the torso, arms, and lower extremities.
    • Begin in a plank position with your arms straight and in line with the elbows and shoulders and feet on the floor with toes curled under. Back is straight.
    • Lower your knees to the ground, along with your chest and chin. Your bottom should stay high in the air and your elbows should be close to the body and pointed back and up.
    • Slowly lower your hips and glide forward while you lift your head and chest up off the mat. Keep your arms close to the body and pressure off your hands. Using your back to lift the chest, your hips should be planted to the ground as well as the tops of your feet.
    • Bring your toes under your feet and move your hands forward bringing the body back into a plank position.
    • Step forward a bit with your feet in a flat position and raise your bottom up toward the ceiling. Straighten the arms while stretching the shoulder blades down. It should feel as if someone is pulling you back by the hips into a stretch.
    • Repeat this series two more times.
  • Inchworm

    • Begin in a plank position and slowly walk forward keeping your legs straight as far as you can go.
    • Then walk your hands forward until you are eventually back in the plank position. From here you can lower into a push up or repeat the process again. Repeat 5 times

Conclusion 

A good warm-up should involve some aerobic activity to get your circulation going. Next it should have some dynamic stretches to engage the core and muscle groups your workout will focus on. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should get you engaged physically and mentally before the actual workout. If you need help with figuring out the best warm-up for you and other tips on how to prevent injuries, give us a call at Blue Hills Sports and Spine Rehabilitation. Our team is ready to help you perform at your best!

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