Before launching into a full workout, most people know that you should perform some basic stretches. Unfortunately, even though this is pretty common knowledge, many people decide to skip the warming-up stage for a variety of reasons—on a time crunch, doesn’t feel necessary or unaware of the benefits.
For professional athletes, discarding this important step could make the difference between a successful season and a career-ending injury. Even if you’re not a pro athlete, your body still benefits from some simple warm-ups. Here, the Gronkowski brothers reveal their tips on how to properly warm up before your workouts.
Why Is Warming Up So Important?
When you decide to skip a warm-up, you’re putting your body at a much higher risk of injury. Most of us are not performing labor-intensive activities throughout the day, so when you go from a relatively sedentary period straight into a workout, your muscles are not prepared for the extra strain. Without a pre-workout routine, you’re more likely to suffer from joint damage and muscle strain. If you’ve already suffered an injury, skipping the warm-up could re-injure or cause further damage.
Because younger people are less prone to injury and their bodies have the ability to heal more quickly, they are often the group to ignore the importance of warm-ups. However, this can place additional stress on your muscles that will cause problems later in life. If you can develop a solid pre-workout routine at a young age, you’re setting yourself up for success as you age.
As you warm up, you give your body the time to adjust to the higher physical demand. Working your way into an exercise allows your blood vessels more time to dilate, which will be less strain on your heart. The temperature of blood will increase at a slower rate, making it less likely that you’ll overheat, and your muscles become warmer as well, a vital part of muscle elasticity.
Pre-Workout Protein Shakes for Energy
Before hitting the gym, pros like the Gronkowskis swear by pre-workout protein shakes. Your body does not store protein, which means you need to continually consume good sources of the macronutrient in order to fuel your body with energy. Protein is vital to re-building muscles. Consuming a protein shake prior to exercise will give your body an extra boost of energy and could help the recovery process post-workout. Some professional athletes recommend bringing a protein shaker bottle to the gym with you–drinking half before a workout and then finishing the other half afterward to encourage and expedite muscle growth.
Avoid Stationary Stretches
Some stationary stretches can be helpful before a workout. For example, stand-up hamstring workouts can release tension and warm your muscles up. However, you should avoid an entire routine around these types of warm-ups because it’s not preparing your body for how it will actually be moving during exercise. When developing a routine, think about the workouts you do most often. How is your body moving during these? Based on this information, you can create a warm-up that mimics these movements without the same intensity to ease your body into the workout.
Get Your Entire Body Involved
Often known as dynamic warm-ups, routines that involve your entire body and get you moving at the same time are widely utilized by professional athletes. In the world of sports, dynamic pre-workouts are noted for developing a more powerful and controlled performance. The opposite of static stretching, dynamic movements imitate whatever type of exercise you plan to do.
For example, before playing football, Rob and Chris Gronkowski use warm-ups that incorporate similar movements to those they would be doing during a game. Common dynamic stretches for football include walking knee hugs, forward lunges with rotation and backward skips. Based on the type of physical activity you perform, you can establish a routine to stretch areas of your body that will be more engaged and prep your body for specific types of movements.
Make it Short and Gradually Increase Intensity
It can be difficult to make time for exercise when you have so many other daily responsibilities. For this reason, many people opt to skip warm-ups because they believe it will extend their workout time. However, you don’t need to spend more than a few minutes stretching and an additional five minutes in the gym could prevent a painful, serious injury. Aim to spend five to ten minutes on warming up.
Pre-workouts not only warm up your muscles but also prepare your heart and lungs for increased activity. When you jump straight into a workout, you risk the chance of overheating because your body hasn’t been given the proper time to kick its functioning into high gear. You should begin your warm-up slowly with low-intensity, dynamic stretches and slowly work your way into more active stretches. By the end of the warm-up, you should feel a slight increase in heart rate and have worked up a bit of a sweat.
Develop a Regular Routine
Learning and incorporating new warm-ups every time you work out can be tedious. It’s not necessary to integrate different pre-workouts. Find some stretches that you like and that work with your type of exercise and make this part of your everyday routine.
Examples of Pro Warm-Up Routines
Everyone’s warm-up routine is different because it’s entirely dependent on what type of physical activity you plan to engage in, but these examples of common stretches used by professional athletes can help you develop a routine that’s right for you.
Forward Lunge with Rotation
A great warm-up for football players or runners with tight hips, the forward lunge with rotation is a dynamic pre-workout you can work into any routine. Begin by doing a standard lunge with one foot forward—don’t let your forward knee move out past your toe. As you step forward, rotate your abdomen and outstretched arms over your front knee. Continue this motion, switching which leg leads every other rep.
Beneficial before any type of exercise, the mountain climber warm-up requires you to get on the ground, holding yourself up in a position similar to a plank. Then, be sure that your core is engaged and bring one knee up to your chest without placing your foot on the ground. Bring this foot back to the starting position and repeat with your other leg. You can do this motion, working up in pace and intensity, for 45 seconds to one minute for a solid warm-up.
A former 3-year starter in the NFL for the Cowboys, Colts & Broncos, Chris Gronkowski is now the CEO of Ice Shaker. Ice Shaker has been featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, Good Morning America, HLN morning express, Forbes and others. Chris is the middle of the 5 Gronkowski brothers and has started writing about his athletic and entrepreneurial experiences.