There are different ways to warm up and they are often classified in three categories namely passive, general and specific. Passive warm up involves methods such as hot showers, heating pads or a massage. It’s ideal for less strenuous exercise such as yoga. It requires less energy expenditure and prevents pre-fatigue. General warm up is the most common method of warm up. It involves basic movements of the major muscle groups of the body. Because of the effects that it brings to the body such as increase in heart rate, blood flow, deep muscle temperature, respiration rate and perspiration, it is suitable for preparing the body for demanding physical activity. Light jogging or tread mill, cycling, jumping rope are some of the modes you can use for general warm up. Specific warm up method includes movements that are an actual part of the activity or it mimics the subsequent exercise. For example, slow jogging before going for run or doing light weight bench press before your actual set.

The amount, duration and intensity of warm up depends upon various factors such as one’s fitness level, it will take longer for a fit person to warm up then someone who is less fit. For strenuous sports activities where it requires difficult and dynamic movements like squash, you need to warm up more intensely then a casual round of golf. The climate plays an important role in deciding the duration of a warm up. During cold climates, the body will take longer to heat up and proper clothing should be utilised to maximise the effort. In general 10-15 minutes is a proper time spent on warm up. Its main purpose is to raise the core body temperature which is indicated by mild sweating.

I have seen many people using static stretches for warm up. It needs to be clearly understood that stretching alone cannot help raise the core body temperature. Instead warm up should be done before stretching exercises because the rise in muscle temperature and circulation increases muscle elasticity making it more pliable. This helps prevent injuries and improves flexibility. These days many people practice yoga asanas/stretches. Yoga has subtle exercises (sukchmya bayam) which should be utilised as a warming up tool to make the body ready for asanas.  I recently had a client suffer a muscle pull on his lower back when he tried to do a back bend without warming up properly. He was bedridden for nearly two weeks.

For a general warm up you can do the following:

•    It is best to use well insulated cloth during warm up

•    Start up by working all your joints. Joint rotations is performed by using circular movements of the joints both clockwise and anti-clockwise (fingers and knuckles, wrists, elbows, shoulders neck, trunk/waist, hips, knees, ankles and toes, repeat 6-7 times on each side)

•    Get on the cardio machines such as a treadmill, cross trainer or a stationary cycle for about 5-10 minutes. Start slow and gradually pick up your pace. Maintain a moderate pace throughout the warm up period.

•    If you don’t have access to the gym, just do spot run for 5-10 minutes. For variation use jumping jack, heel touch and standing alternate leg curl.

Note: You can perform maintenance stretches after the aerobic part of the warm up.  However, unless you are doing stretching as your primary exercise you should only use proper stretches at the end of the program as a cool down for better results.

I hope this information will help you include warm up in your workout knowing that it is an equally important part of an effective exercise program. Proper warm up prepares your body both physically and mentally ensuring the success of the program hence benefiting your overall health. If you have been second lining warm up so far it’s never too late to do the right thing. Please remember if you don’t have time to warm up you don’t have time to work out.

Good luck

The author is a certified professional fitness instructor, founder and master trainer at Rage Fitness and a fitness columnist who specialises in mixed martial arts