A warm-up mismatched to your fitness routine is not just ineffectual, it can lead to strains and injuries. Here is advice on how to get it right.  A WARM-UP is an accepted part of life in the modern world — you warm-up your car to prevent accelerated wear and breakdown, a chef warms-up the oven before cooking.  People seem to know a lot about warming up cars and ovens, but not much about exercise.

They are not alone, as many exercise enthusiasts, including personal trainers, assume that riding a bike or using a treadmill will prepare the body for whatever training lies ahead. This is a mistake. When it comes to fitness, one size does not fit all. A proper warm-up should achieve the following objectives: Release fluid into your joints.

    • Warm your muscles and tendons.
    • Activate the nervous system.
    • Get the blood pumping in the required muscles.
    • Prepare your body and mind for the exercise to follow.

Warm-ups should be specific to whatever you are doing, be it aerobic training or weight training. After all, you can’t prepare for a German exam by speaking French, and that’s what it feels like to your body. Consider the following example.

You have warmed-up on a bike prior to doing a set of chin-ups. When you reach for the bar, consider how the muscles of your arms, shoulders and back, and all related joints and muscles, were not activated in anything close to the same movement pattern or intensity during your warm-up.

This can lead to strains and tears of muscles, tendons and ligaments. Warm-ups should follow the SAID principle: a Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. This means that if you are going to do aerobic training, you warm-up using aerobic training; if you are going to perform weight training, your warm-up should be weight training, doing the exercises you are about to perform but using some lighter weights.

With weight training, for example, a beginner may need two warm-up sets of 40pc to 60pc intensity. The stronger you are and the greater the training load, the more warm-upsets needed to ensure injury prevention. If your primary activity in training is aerobic, which is low intensity compared to lifting weights, your warm-up should reproduce all the movement patterns you will be using, but at a lower intensity than that of your training.

So it should consist of, perhaps, walking, leading to jogging, gradually increasing your stride to bring you near to your training speed for the day. The warm-up should be long enough to achieve freedom of movement in your joints and muscles. Sweat indicates your body’s cooling system has been activated and the muscles are now ready for exercise. Remember, a good warm-up is essential to a longer-lasting engine and finer tasting food. Furthermore, it is essential to optimal performance and in jury prevention.

Tip of the week

Always do the most complicated exercises (ie, exercises that require the most co-ordination) first in your workout. Lunges would go before seated biceps curls, and weight-training would go before aerobic training. Remember, repetition dictates the weight, so if you can do more than eight repetitions, increase the weight.

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