Jo Waters June 21, 2017

You might think you're too short of time to bother with a warm up or a warm down or that they're just a waste of time. But warm up exercises are important for boosting performance and helping prevent injuries.

When you're lifting weights, you're putting extra pressure on your muscles and joints, so if your muscles are flexible, you will be able to work with the resistance more effectively.

Think of your muscles as being like elastic bands. If they're tight and taut and you put pressure on them, they're more likely to snap (and you will get injured)

Warming up for weights

Elevate your heart rate: Start slowly and gradually make your movements bigger. Using sweeping arm movements over the head and moving the big muscles in the legs, with lunges or knee pfts or jogging on the spot to get your heart beating faster. You can also do five to 10 minutes on the bike, treadmill or cross trainer.

BENEFITS: By moving more and elevating your heart rate, your body temperature will rise, making your muscles more elastic and ready for a workout.

Mobilise your joints: Make big sweeping arm movements, twist from the waist, bend from the hips, squat and bend the knees and do some walking lunges and steps out to the side, back and in front.

BENEFITS: This will get synovial fluid flowing to the joints, meaning you will perform exercises in a fluid way.

Prepare your muscles: Rehearse the movements you're planning to do, but without the weights, e.g. squats, lunges, shoulder press.

BENEFITS: This will prepare your muscles, and mind, for the movements when you add resistance.

Stretch slowly: Performing the movements mentioned above will stretch the muscles dynamically (slowly in a controlled way but with a full range of movement). Avoid static stretching – when you stop moving and hold the stretch. Recent research has found this can be counter-productive as it can impair strength [i] and explosive movement when you go on to do your workout. [ii]

BENEFITS: :Dynamic stretching will prevent injury and delayed onset muscle soreness(DOMS) after your workout.

Warming down

Warming down after your workout will: help you avoid DOMS; allow your heart rate to return to its resting rate; help dissolve lactic acid; reduce the chances of dizziness or fainting; and help to avoid injury.

Try the following warm down exercises:

Lower your heart rate: If you exercised to elevate your heart rate, as well as doing weights (e.g. sprinted between sets), then reverse the first part of your warm up. Lower your heart rate with easy cycling, walking etc. Swap the big sweeping movements of your warm up with smaller, slower movements, for example shoulder shrugs instead of sweeping arms, heel taps instead of lunges, and easy knee bends instead of squats.

Stretch: Focus on slow, static stretching using all the muscles you've used in the workout. Spend time on the big muscles, for example, hamstrings and quadriceps. Hold your stretches for at least 45 seconds on each muscle. You can also add in yoga moves and stretches at the end of the workout.

Breathe deep and relax: If you have time, try to incorporate some deep breathing and relaxation at the end of your workout.

Supplements

Nutritional supplements can help support your body's needs when you're training hard. Choose brands with the Informed Sport logo which provide assurance to athletes that products are regularly tested for prohibited substances and manufactured to the highest quality standards.

Vitamin C: When you exercise, your body produces free radicals which cause cell-damaging, oxidative stress. [iii] An antioxidant, vitamin C supplements will help your body cope with the stress it's put under during weight training.

B vitamins: Often referred to as the B complex vitamins, these are involved in the production of energy. According to one study, [iv] athletes with low levels of B vitamins will notice a dip in performance during high-intensity exercise, so if it's worth checking your levels if you want to perform at your best.

Magnesium: Strenuous exercise increases magnesium requirements by 10 to 20 per cent. Experts say performance will improve in athletes who are magnesium-deficient if they take a supplement. [v]

L-Arginine: An amino acid, L-Arginine is one of the building blocks that help the body make protein needed to repair muscles. 

References

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Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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