Thursday, May 31, 2012

Warm up and stretching- To pass or not to pass, that is the question

                With so many daily tasks looming over our heads, getting to the gym can be a rare treat. Once in the gym it’s very common to jump from machine to machine trying to get as much done in the quickest amount of time. Even though our brain works like a clock, our muscles don’t.  If you will, think about our muscles being similar to a rubber band. It’s stretchy but seems to always maintain the same shape.  If you play with it in your hand for a while it becomes more flexible and warm. It is able to expand around a bigger item than it would right out of the bag. However if you try to put it around a rather large item, right out of the bag, it snaps and breaks. Our muscles can act the same way if they’re not given proper care before a workout. A good warm up helps the joints around the muscles to have a better range of motion, it engages your heart gradually for use, and it help focus you for the upcoming workout. For a proper warm up, there are 2 steps, the warm up and the stretching.  The first part of the warm up includes small aerobic/cardio work that doesn’t involve strenuous activity.  Here are examples of some machines/warm ups to use to get your heart rate up
  1. 1.       Walking on a treadmill at a 2.5-3.2 level
  2. 2.       Using an elliptical at a level 1
  3. 3.       Stationary Bike at a level 1
  4. 4.       Setting your hands at waist level and tapping your knees up to your hand one at a time
After you feel slightly warmer than when you first arrived, find a place off to the side to stretch. The most common thought on stretching is the stand and hold method, known as static. This is helpful but even says that type of stretching should be saved for your cool down. Right now we want to focus on dynamic stretching, movement that helps prepare your muscles for the work they are about to perform. For example, if you’re focusing on cardio (running, biking, etc.etc) some dynamic warm ups/stretches you should perform are
  1. 1.       Forward/Backward lunges
  2. 2.       Leg lifts
  3. 3.       Walking lunges
  4. 4.       Squats
If you’re workout includes weight lifting some warm ups/stretches you want to perform are
  1. 1.       Side bends
  2. 2.       Squats
  3. 3.       Leg swings
  4. 4.       Arm swings
  5. 5.       Shoulder circles
 Your warm up routine should comprise of exercises that bring up your body temperature up as well as increase movement in the muscles you are preparing to exercise. You want to make sure you are always targeting the bigger muscles first (hamstrings, quads, biceps, deltoids, and pecs)  . As referring back to the rubber band analogy it’s easier to work with a loose rubber band that needs to be used as opposed to one that stiff and cold. The same works with your muscles. A good warm up helps prevents injury and increases flexibility for future activity and workouts.

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