Warmups aren't exclusive to the gym. Even if you're working out at home, you still need this pre-workout boost to get the most out of your session. Adding just 5 or 10 minutes before your normal exercise routine for a solid warm-up can help you recover faster and protect you from injury.
Whether you're hitting a stationary bike in your basement, running laps around your cul-de-sac or performing a series of strength moves in front of your favorite television show, a warm-up helps improve calorie burn and performance.
The Importance of Warming Up
A gradual warm-up prepares your body for the effort to follow. It primes your cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular systems. A good warm-up also starts to raise your body temperature and increases circulation, improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to working muscles.
As the temperature of your muscles rises, they become more efficient at using stored sugar and fat for energy, so you'll more effectively burn calories. When you increase your overall body temperature, your muscles can work harder and more forcefully, but are also more elastic and less vulnerable to injury. A warm-up also increases communication between your brain and your muscles and nerves, so you have greater dexterity and agility. Your joints also experience greater range of motion.
Warmups prime your energy systems, or metabolic pathways, so you're able to produce and utilize energy to sustain more intense exercise for longer. Plus, a warm-up psychologically prepares you for harder work ahead.
If you need more evidence, a survey of 32 recent studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2010 confirmed that performance improvements occur after completion of adequate warm-up activities.
Warm-up Part I — Progressive Cardio
The first part of your warm up should include progressive aerobic movement that's similar to what you'll do during the bulk of your workout. If you have a treadmill or stationary bike in your basement, 5 to 10 minutes of easy walking or pedaling can be enough to warm you up for a more intense cardio routine.
Lower-Intensity Variations of What's to Come
If you're going for a run, walk briskly or jog lightly before you hit your full stride. The same is true if you plan to ride your bike or pedal an elliptical. This lower intensity portion can last between 5 and 10 minutes, but may go on as long as 20 minutes if you're feeling a little sluggish.
Simple calisthenics, such as jumping jacks, marching in place and knee lifts, can warm your body up for a dance fitness or kickboxing video. These moves may also prepare you for an at-home resistance-training workout. Choose four to five different calisthenics and perform each for 30 to 45 seconds in quick succession to get your body ready to move.
Warm-up Part II — Dynamic Stretching
Long-held stretches do help improve flexibility, but are best saved for after a workout. Instead, perform dynamic stretches, which entail moving as you stretch. Usually these stretches mimic activity you'll conduct during the workout. Do these dynamic stretches after the progressive cardio for the most benefit.
For example, if you were to be doing an at-home, lower-body strength-training routine, you might end your at-home workout with two or three minutes of bodyweight lunges, squats and step-ups. Should you be planning a run, leg swings, Frankenstein walks and hip circles are good dynamic stretches to perform.