Warm Up Exercises

Before starting to exercise, people should always warm up their bodies and stretch the muscles to prepare for the activity they are about to perform. This is essential in order to derive the maximum benefits from exercise and also to avoid injuring the body. A warm-up session should be practised before any sort of exercise, whether it is a game of tennis, a jog or a weight-training session in the gym.

Warming up involves gentle, rhythmic exercises that encourage movement throughout the body. There are several important benefits to warming up, the main one being the prevention of injury. Some warming-up exercises concentrate on getting several parts of the body moving simultaneously; others focus on warming up specific areas of the body.

BENEFITS OF WARMING UP

Warming up raises body temperature (in particular, that of the muscles), lubricates the joints and gradually increases the breathing and heart rate. Raising the temperature of the muscles improves their flexibility, enabling them to stretch more easily. Tight or cold muscles, and joints that are inadequately lubricated, are more likely to be injured. Slowly increasing the rate at which blood is pumped around the body prevents unnecessary strain on the heart.

WARMING-UP EXERCISES

Many people develop their own warm-up routines based on exercises they have learned previously: the stretches described here are typical of warm-ups that might be taught in an aerobics or fitness class prior to more vigorous exercise. Some pieces of exercise equipment, such as treadmills and stationary bicycles, incorporate a warm-up period into their programmes.

It is vital to warm up thoroughly for at least 5-10 minutes before you begin your chosen exercise. Experienced exercisers should warm up more vigorously than people who are not accustomed to exercise – a slow jog, for example, can be substituted for marching on the spot.

The following suggestions are designed to encourage movement all over the body before you begin the specific muscle stretches:

• Begin by walking, briskly marching on the spot or doing side steps in either direction while pumping the arms.

• Point the toe of the right foot and tap it on the floor. Now flex your right foot and tap your heel on the floor. Repeat this movement several times and then swap feet. Do some exaggerated shoulder shrugs at the same time, rotating your shoulders first forwards and then backwards.

• Put your hands to your head and bring each knee up to meet the opposite elbow.

• Twist your upper body as far to the right as possible and then as far to the left as possible. Keep your hips still.

• Stretch one arm up and over your head and reach over to the side from your waist. Do the same on the other side and repeat a few times on each side.

• Do some knee bends. Warm up the feet by circling your ankles.

Continue with the above movements until you feel warm and flexible. These activities should not make you feel out-of-breath or exhausted.

Since the exercises that follow involve stretching the muscles, they can be used on their own to promote greater flexibility, as well as for pre-exercise warm-ups (as pre-exercise warm-ups they are suitable for any kind of sport).

Warming up the body

A good initial warming-up exercise involves standing up straight with the feet approximately shoulder-width apart and rotating the arms. Rotate the arms forwards five to ten times and then backwards five to ten times. This will increase your heart rate, warm up your arm muscles and lubricate your shoulder joints. Alternatively, march on the spot while pumping the arms.

Shoulders

This stretches the deltoid muscles in the shoulders.

1 Fold one arm across your chest and take hold of the upper arm from below with the other hand.

2 Press the upper arm against you. Feel the stretch in the shoulder. Change sides.

Upper back

This stretches the trapezius muscle in the upper back. L Extend both arms in front of you, keeping your elbows soft. Clasp your hands, knuckles facing out. 2 Round your shoulders and drop your head down towards your chest until you can feel a stretching sensation across the top of the back and shoulders.

Groin

This stretches the hip flexor muscles.

1 Extend the left leg behind you as far as you can and lower your left knee to the floor.

2 Now push your upper body forwards, supporting yourself by putting your hands on the floor. Keep your knee above your ankle with your foot facing forwards. Feel the stretch in the groin area. Change sides.

Chest

This stretches the pectoral muscles in the chest.

1 Clasp your hands behind your back with your knuckles facing out.

2 Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Feel the stretch across your chest.

Back of the arm

This stretches the triceps muscles in the arms.

1 Lift one arm above your head. Drop the hand down your back and use the other hand to grasp the arm above the elbow.

2 Ease the elbow backwards and feel the stretch in the back of the upper arm. Change sides.

Front of legs

This stretches the quadriceps muscles in the thighs. Take hold of your right foot with your right hand; ease the foot into your right buttock. Change sides.

Back of legs

This stretches the hamstring muscles in the thighs.

1 From a standing position, move your left foot one step in front of your right foot.

2 Keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee. Keep your thighs parallel. Put your hands on the tops of your thighs and feel the stretch in the left thigh. Change sides.

Inner legs

This stretches the adductor muscles in the inner thighs. With legs wide apart and hands on the tops of the thighs, bend the knees, move the buttocks downwards, keeping the knees turned and above the ankles.

Calf

This stretches the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves.

1 Place your hands at shoulder height against a wall and extend the right foot behind you, hip-width apart from your left foot.

2 Push against the wall so your weight is forwards. Ease the heel of the right foot down into the floor, bending the left knee slightly, so you can feel the stretch down the back of the right calf. Change sides.