Everyone knows that you should warm up before exercise, however the majority of us either skip this vital stage or simply jog on the treadmill, swing our arms about and begin our workout. It's tempting to jump right into your workout to make the most of the time you've got, but when you skip your warm up & activation, you're setting your body up to be less efficient and far more likely to end up with an injury. A correctly planned and executed warm up can not only do the obvious and raise your body temperature, but can prevent injury, improve performance, activate your CNS, increase circulation and improve neuromuscular activation ('switching on' lazy muscles).
A good warm-up should be specific to the range of motion you need for that particular workout, and activation drills should be specific to the movement patterns you'll be using. Every warm up does not need to be completely focused on just the muscle groups your about to use, it's a good habit to activate practise a well rounded warm up while of course paying particular attention to areas you fall behind on or are about to be under the most stress in the session.
Pulse & Body Temperature Raising:
It's important that your muscles are warm before performing any mobility or static stretching, as this loosens them and increasing the heart rate pumps more blood to the muscles to give them a plentiful supply of oxygen. This can be done in the form of light cardio or dynamic stretching. This stage is even more important if you have been sedentary all day!
CNS (central nervous system) Priming:
The CNS consists of our brain and spinal cord and is how the brain communicates with the body, enabling us to perform movement and respond to stimulus. Priming the CNS is essential for efficient performance and can be achieved using any explosive movements - burpees, jumps, or any other kind of plyometrics. This is also a great way to get your head into the workout and can have a heavy psychological impact on your workout.
This will be the section of the warm up most specific to the workout you're about to do. Mobility drills will increase your ROM (range of movement) and enable you to lift more efficiently with the correct form. Every individual has their own weaknesses, imbalances and inflexibilities and so the emphasis on each particular exercise I give my clients differ greatly from person to person. Activation is another key step that cannot be missed if your workout is to be effective. The majority of us have lazy muscles (glutes, lats, abdominals and deeper core muscles are common culprits), usually because of poor mechanics/posture or lifestyle factors, such as sitting at a desk. The inactivity of these muscles means that other muscles like your quads, lower back and traps take over as a result. This not only creates a poor movement pattern and puts you at risk of injury, but greatly reduces your results!
Warm Up Sets:
Before any significant weight is moved, warm up sets should be performed starting at around 40% of your max and increase gradually up to your 'working weight'. This again primes your CNS for that movement and allows you to ensure you are working with the correct form before you begin.
This basic warm up structure is by no means applicable to every person or workout, but is a good place to start if you are unsure or are currently skipping your warm up completely. Give it a go and I'm sure you'll notice a difference in your workout that follows!