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Most people know that it is important to warm-up before physical activity, but less people know exactly what a proper warm-up looks like. How long should a warm-up be? Are there any exercises that are absolutely necessary? These are examples of common questions that few people know the answer to.

Knowing how to warm-up properly is crucial for achieving good performance and for avoiding injury. A good warm-up routine prepares the body for the full vigor of the activity to come by activating muscle groups and increasing blood flow. This process begins the crucial transfer of nutrients to your joints and tissues without the stress of starting with the full activity right away.

Here are the key tips to remember when warming-up before physical activity.

  • Save your static stretches until after you have completed the desired activity because stretching can reduce the body’s potential performance when performed right before vigorous activity. Researchers have demonstrated that static stretching will interfere with your stretch reflex, which is necessary for storing kinetic energy in your muscles during movement.
  • Your warm-up should be an imitation of the activity that you are planning on performing. For example, it is recommended that you start with a light jog before you begin interval training.
  • The general rule is that you should warm-up no more than 10 minutes prior to any activity that is considered somewhat hard, with a heart rate of 130+ beats per minute. Less rigorous activities do not stress the body as much, and can even be considered as a warm-up themselves.
  • Your warm-up should finish near enough to the start of the event so that your heart rate does not return to your resting average. However, allow enough time to pass so that your muscles can relax a bit from the warm-up.
  • Good warm-ups involve dynamic stretches, which are stretches that use movement, after you heart rate increases. The theory is that you are simulating the movements that you will perform during your activity, but in a gradual, reserved and progressive manner. Walking lunges, for example, will increase your stride length and elongate the body’s tissue, which will prevent any strain when performing your activity.
  • Think about performing your activity in practice-mode once you have completed some priming. For example, if you are planning to race for 15 minutes, it is recommended that you run a few times at the target speed for around 20 seconds each set, just to prepare your body for performing at your target intensity.

These tips will help to ensure that your warm-ups are always preparing you for the planned activity, and that you avoid any injuries from the strain.