Raise your hand if you've ever been tempted to skip the warmup in your workout in the name of efficiency. As hard as it can be to carve out the time to fit a sweat sesh into your jam-packed day, shaving off a few minutes to jump right into your workout seems harmless, right? Not exactly. That's one of many myths about stretching and warming up that simply aren't true, and we're here to bust the biggest three.
Warming up for any workout is a non-negotiable—that is, if you want to prevent injury and protect your joints. "More often than not, people come from a day of sitting at a desk or a computer all day. Their muscles have been in this shortened position with very little mobility. They then leave the office head to the gym and jump on a machine. Guess what? Those muscles are shortened, over recruited, and without a proper warm up they are asking for injury," says Brooke Taylor, certified trainer and founder of Taylored Fitness.
Before you start stretching it out—or doing any other warmup, for that matter—check out the most common misconceptions Taylor hears about warming up.
1. You don't need to warm up
Repeat after me: Warming up is not optional. If you want to keep working out as you get older, it's especially important since "the structure of your workout is so important to sustain body longevity," Taylor says. "I cannot stress enough how important it is to warm up properly before starting any exercise. Skipping the first steps often leads to muscular imbalances and injuries over time," Taylor says.
Let's say you've been known to skip a warm-up from time to time and feel fine—don't let that feeling fool you. "Sure you may run to the gym for a quick cardio session jumping on and off the treadmill feeling great, but I promise you that feeling will wear over time leading to injury and a forced break," says Taylor.
2. You should stretch every muscle beforehand
Taylor says stretching your entire body before a workout is a no-go. Instead, save the static stretching for the end of your workout when your muscles are warm. "You should close out your workouts with static stretches once the muscles are already warm to elongate them and aid in returning your body to a neutral state. It is also a great way to allow the core temperature to drop naturally," she says.
So what should you do before your workout? "I recommend that you foam roll to open up the muscle spindles around the joints. Then perform dynamic stretching simulating the movement patterns that you are going to be performing," she says.
3. "I'm flexible so I don't need to warm up"
Again, you're not going to spend a ton of time stretching before your workout, but if you already feel pretty limber, you may think you're good to go...not exactly. "With an increase in activity, change of exercises, high impact, increase of weight load and age flexibility diminishes. Also, as we age our mobility gets more restrictive due to less activity and excessive sitting," Taylor says. So your flexibility and range of motion can pretty much change at any given time, which means it's best to stick to a true warm up no matter how you feel.
Try Taylor's go-to warm up that she does before every workout
1. Foam roll (make sure you use a dense roller to open up the fascia around the joints and hold onto each area 15 to 30 seconds).
2. Cardio warm up on the treadmill or elliptical for five to 10 minutes. This gets the blood moving and the body revved up for a good workout.
3. Dynamic warm up. Perform a series for two to three movements in all three planes of motion.
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