Although this is rather obvious, and well known, I’ve seen many people skip warming up when they enter the gym. Instead, they come in all determined and ready to go, and they literally go! Halt, I say! Even if you’re in a rush, warming up for gym is key for a variety of reasons.
1) Increases blood flow into the muscles – enhanced circulation and an increased muscle temperature (due to the greater blood flow) allows for better performance. The increased temperature increases the rate of muscle work (contraction/relaxation), allowing the muscle to be more efficient (therefore, you’ll get more use out of it as you’re doing the movement). If you’re ready to go heavy in order to accomplish muscle fatigue, you’ll certainly get a rep or two more out of your set if you begin when you’ve already warmed up and increased circulation to the muscle group you’re targeting. If you try to go heavy before you get that blood pumping, well…let’s just say it’s almost guaranteed you won’t be getting the greatest performance. Compare it to moving your broken car manually, it’s hardest when it’s stationary or moving very slowly, and it becomes easier and more effective once it’s in full motion. Substitute the car for your body and the motion for your blood flow, it’s pretty simple!
2) Allows for Mental Readiness – if you’ve ever had a successful workout, you’ll agree that mental strength is just as important as physical strength. Warming up for gym allows you to mentally prepare for the tough session ahead, and with mental alertness and preparedness comes better focus and improved form on your sets. For more on being able to enhance training check out our article on the Mind Muscle Connection.
3) Prevents Injury – perhaps the greatest no-brainer, but it’s easy to see how getting the muscles prepared by increasing blood flow prior to your strong sets will prevent injury. Stone-cold muscles being subjected to extremely heavy stress (a heavy set) right off the bat are more likely to get injured. Think about it, your tendons, joints, and muscles are all in need of proper stimulation to get themselves into the optimal zone for performance (as explained in point 1), without this stimulation, you’re practically asking for some type of problem.
A good way of warming up for gym prior to hitting the weights hard is to simply start with the first exercise you expected to do that day, and grabbing a light weight (40-50% max of what you regularly do). Do 12-20 reps with slow and controlled form, and get the blood flowing. If you feel that wasn’t enough, do another set. Then proceed to doing your particular exercise. Remember, this doesn’t take long, but it goes a long way towards making sure you’re injury free and getting the most out of your workouts. Good Luck!