The success or failure of your workout is decided before it even starts. The ideal warm-up stretches should help you reach your peak workout, and reduce the risk of injuries that could cut short your goals. Simply put, the body needs an easing-in period before every session of intense activity. Consider it negligent to go into a grueling session straight from a standstill without stretching.
The Goal of Stretching
A good warm-up must accomplish some set objectives. It should optimize your muscular, circulatory and skeletal systems to build more muscle with less risk of injuries. Warm-ups clear waste from the muscles and put your joints through their full range of motion.
Make it Dynamic
Static stretching used to be the go-to for many amateur and pro athletes until a few decades ago when experts started to realize the benefits of dynamic stretches. Static stretching involves holding poses for a minimum of 10 seconds while the body is in a state of rest.
Dynamic stretching is quite the opposite – it hinges on stretching while moving – and has risen to prominence in the world of fitness for a number of reasons.
- Dynamic stretching activates the muscles, effectively waking them from the state of sleepy inactivity they had been in.
- It improves the range of motion of muscles and joints; this plays a great role in preventing injuries.
- Studies have also shown that stretching, when done properly, can lead to improved performance in exercises designed to build muscle mass.
Stretches to Optimize Your Workout
The following stretches will get your body warmed up and ready for any sort of workout routine, whether you’re doing cardio or weight training or a combination of both. A set of 10 reps for each warm-up exercise will maximize your training. Do it fairly quickly; the full routine shouldn’t exceed four minutes.
These get the blood flowing in the lower half of the body. Hold your hands behind your head while standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down as low as possible, ideally with your knees forming right angles. Come up with an explosive jump for one complete rep.
Knee to Chest Raises
While standing on one foot (or sitting), lift one knee as high as possible with your hands grasping your shin for support. The aim is to get the kneecap as high as possible towards the chest. Hold it for a couple of seconds, and drop the leg back to its starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
These prep the upper body, including the core, for the rigors of a real workout. Start in the traditional pushup position, with your torso parallel to the ground and supported by both arms held at right angles to the body. Lower your body but keep your chest from touching the ground by pushing yourself off the ground. Lift one arm upwards, stretching it toward the sky. Reach back down and repeat the motion for another rep.