General warming up refers to any physical activity that jacks up muscle and body temperature. Warming up is essential to your workouts in the gym and every other athletic activity for that matter. Examples of whole body general warm-ups are light jogging, calisthenics, jumping rope and riding a stationary bike. Warming up for 10-15 minutes also affords you the opportunity to get psyched up mentally for a challenging and successful workout.
Warming up involves movements that are similar to what you will be doing (whether it’s weight training, powerlifting, swimming, running, or tennis), but at a much lower intensity level. This not only increases muscle and body temperature, but also provides a rehearsal of the actual event, which may improve your performance. For example, in the gym, if you are preparing to do bench presses, do some light weight dumbbell bench presses before loading up the bar with monster weight. Typically, one to three sets of 10 – 15 reps using a light to moderate weight should be sufficient; more advanced exercisers may need to warm up longer and more intensely to achieve an optimal body and muscle temperature.
There are several psychological factors created by warm-ups. Skilled performance improves with brief warm up activities identical or directly related to the sport. Warming up also helps you to rid yourself of distractions and clear your mind as you focus upon the tasks ahead. There is however one potentially negative effect of warm ups: if your warm up is too long or too intense you may end up too tired to work out! Don’t overdo your warming up session. Generally, a moderate 10- minute warm-up is great for a weight training session. A longer and more specific warm-up, say 20 minutes, is preferred for a specific athletic event like golf, tennis or a marathon run.
Stretching is another very important preparatory activity used to improve flexibility and physical performance. Flexibility may be defined as the range of motion possible around a specific joint. In weight training, a lack of flexibility can lead to injuries including muscle strains and sprains. After warming up, perform three reps of at least one static stretch for each major muscle group you will be training. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds or until you feel a slight amount of discomfort. Never bounce, jerk or force a stretch and make sure to breathe out on each stretch. More extensive stretching is typically more beneficial during the workout between sets of exercises for the muscle groups that you are training.
Remember, a five to ten- minute warm up along with a few light stretches can heat up your body and muscles and really add to the success of your workout.