Injury prevention: It’s all in the warm-up
How can I possibly prevent a multitude of potential injuries in a short amount of time? Let’s face it, in today’s world we are lucky if we have enough time to fit in exercise, let alone an injury prevention program. However, there are some basic things you can do to help keep your body functioning smoothly for your on-the-go lifestyle.
What’s in a good warm-up?
A good warm-up serves the purpose to increase blood flow and oxygen to your muscles prior to doing anything taxing on the body. Think about your muscles like tight rubber bands. When that rubber band is pulled quickly or placed under a lot of tension quickly, it tears or snaps.
Muscles act in a similar fashion when we go from a tightened position, sitting at a desk, to immediately lifting weights or going for a run. The idea is to gently warm-up the muscle like you would gently pull on the rubber band.
While stretching is important, you can over-stretch prior to a workout and diminish the amount of power and work your muscles can produce. This leaves the muscle in a less than optimal position to perform which could lead to injury.
A dynamic warm-up allows you to increase blood flow while doing activities that will prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout. These activities often include movement at low to moderate intensity and allow for a light stretch, throughout the range of the movement, without causing harm.
Two phases of a dynamic warm-up
1. The dynamic warm-up should always begin with aerobic activity lasting about 5 minutes. For example, a brisk walk to a light jog or stationary biking at a pace that you can still hold a conversation without being out of breath. Jump rope is also a good aerobic exercise to consider as well (usually recommended 1-2 minutes after the jogging or biking).
2. The second portion of the warm-up will take about 5 minutes and it involves exercises that will prepare your body for more specific movements, including:
- 30 to 50 Jumping Jacks (the number will depend on experience and type of workout)
- 10 Walking Lunges (5 lunges on each leg; focus on good technique)
- 10 to 20 Pushups (the number will depend on experience. Modify by lowering your knees as needed. The goal is to warm-up the arms, chest and back.)
- 10 Forward and 10 Sideways Leg Swings (per leg)
- 10 Two-Step Hamstring stretch
- 10 Body squats
This is just a starting point — more exercises can be added or tailored to accommodate your needs. The main goal is to increase blood flow and body temperature. You do this by increasing your heart rate and then doing functional exercises to prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout.
Should you sustain an injury, stop the activity and follow-up with your doctor.
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