The warm-up is the most overlooked stage in fitness. Very few athletes take the time to prepare themselves for the damage they are about to inflict and then wonder why they have lingering injuries and trigger spots in their range of motion. The purpose of a warm-up is to lubricate the joints, increase body temperature, increase heart rate, loosen up the tendons and ligaments, and focus the mind. All of these benefits can easily be achieved in a five to ten minute routine (depending in the intensity of the training that day).
I am personally guilty of this as well. Sometimes I try to get in a quick workout in between clients so I used to skip the warm-up and jump straight into training. After doing this a couple times I began to feel small aches and pains throughout various joints. Through training, Jiu-Jitsu, and working out as often as possible, I have a tendency to red line my system throughout the week, so I did not allow this to become a habit. I decided to put more attention on the warm-up and less on the workout. Instead of thirty minutes of work, I put in a ten minute warm-up and twenty minutes of work. If you have ever trained with me you'll know that I love kettlebell circuits. They are the perfect little soul crushers for the busy professional. I say soul crusher because a 20kg kettlebell will make you want to curl up in the fetal position very quickly. Their small, but damn their mean. This is what I used for my experiment.
I quickly found that I was able to get in a great workout in a shorter time frame. The biggest difference was that my recovery between rounds was cut almost in half and I did not feel as sluggish. I was also pleased to find that my heart rate maintained a level pattern from one exercise to he next. This is a big plus because heart rate load and recovery is a large indicator of true fitness. This is a simplified version of the stress test used by cardiologist.
So, is there a specific warm-up routine I should use? Not really. Every body is different and every training session is different. My warm-up adds attention to my knees and shoulders because of previous injuries and I suggest tailoring warm-ups to those details. One cookie cutter routine I would suggest is the simple mobility warm-up I have posted below. I prefer to do a mobility warm-up to cover all the basics and listen to my body as I move. This can be a great way to find out what muscle are tight and what joints are feeling stiff that day. Sometimes I'll have to change my workout because I want to allow the issue to heal a little longer or I’ll add extra rest in the routine to reduce risk of injury.
Static stretching can also be used, but some aerobic work must be done after to increase body temperature and heart rate. Yes there have been a couple studies showing that static stretching has a negative effect on strength, but that was only proven when stretching for more than 60 seconds immediately before explosive movements. During a warm-up stretches should be limited to about 20 to 30 seconds and followed by some aerobic exercises as mentioned earlier.
ACSM Certified Fitness Professional