What’s Up With Warm Ups?
Learn how we’ve updated the traditional approach to help you get the most out of every session
4 minute read
Warm up. Work out. Cool down.
We’ve been approaching exercise this way for a long time, and for good reason — it works.
At least, in theory.
In practice, our busy lives can push us to cut back on things that we perceive as less important or beneficial. When it comes to exercise, this often means we gloss over the beginning and end. These exercises can feel less relevant to our overall goals, so it’s easy to justify skimping out. We prioritize the “burn” because it’s usually the part of a workout when we feel like we’re getting the most benefit.
And that’s understandable. It’s hard not to associate warm ups with recreational sports or high school gym class, where you may have prepared for everything with the same light jog, followed by whatever stretches you thought made it look like you knew what you were doing.
These days, we usually don’t have a coach pushing us through the motions, and we all want the most bang for our buck. So if a warm up feels detached from the exercise we’re after, there’s a good chance we won’t give it the time of day.
But – done right – warm ups are much more than just a general way to prevent injury and ramp up for the exercise ahead. In recent years, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of the many benefits of a proper warm up, and how best to achieve them.
Here are 3 things good warm ups do well
1. Stimulate your nervous system:
By gradually moving from a lower-stress resting state to one that mimics the work you’re about to do, you’re priming your nervous system to help you move with the strength and control you’ll need to make the most out of your workout.
2. Activate and mobilize your body:
With dynamic, exercise-specific movements that simulate the ranges of motion you’ll perform during the workout, you’re activating your muscles and mobilizing your joints so that your body is ready to move the way it should.
3. Optimize your performance:
Increasing your body temperature and blood flow has a range of positive effects that boost your performance – improving oxygen delivery to active muscles, reducing reaction time, and increasing strength and power, just to name a few.
Warming up properly prepares your body to function its best during the more challenging exercises that follow. That means you’ll get more out of every session, be more effective at meeting your goals, and guess what – you’ll feel better, too.
Here’s why we’re reframing the warm up
Every movement matters, and every part of your training – regardless of intensity – can be used to improve your performance and work toward lasting, positive change.
The confusion around how best to prepare our bodies for physical exertion means we often do it ineffectively, or skip it altogether. This results in a missed opportunity to train our bodies and optimize our exercise.
“The world where we measure our workouts by how sweaty our shirt gets is coming to an end.”
– Tom Waller, Senior VP, Whitespace by lululemon
That’s why we’ve swapped out traditional terms like warm up and cool down. We’ve modified the conventional workout into 4 parts that we believe better reflect the unique aspects of a balanced workout, in order to help you get the most out of every single session.
Here’s how we break it down
The Opening (low stress level):
To start, light corrective movements address any restrictions or limitations that might inhibit your upcoming exercise. You’ll also start to mobilize the relevant parts of your body to help them move in their full range of motion.
The Activation (moderate stress level):
Next, stimulate your nervous system with some lighter moves that mimic the ranges of motion you’ll use in the next portion. You’re also increasing your body temperature, heart rate and respiration so that your body is ready to go to work.
The Exertion (high stress level):
It’s time to “lock in” the movements you’ve been improving in the opening and activation and challenge your body with dynamic movements under load.
This is the more traditional “workout” portion of the exercise that people sometimes spend all their time on. But by properly preparing for this part, you’ll actually maximize your potential and get more out of the exercise.
The Re-Opening (return to low stress level):
To finish, ease out of your exercise and check back in with some easy movement to reinforce that you’re feeling open and your moves have improved.
Feeling better in your body doesn’t need to hurt. When you take the time to properly sequence your exercise, you can change movement patterns that have been holding you back, work towards achieving your goals, and feel good along the way.
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