An expert tells us the best warm up exercises before a workout.
Why you shouldn’t be doing hamstring or calf stretches right before exercise. (Photo: Andres Rodriguez / www.123rf.com)
Hamstring stretch, check. Calf stretch, yup. Lace up and you’re all ready to go, right?
Recent findings have shown these conventional and supposedly-beneficial stretches are the wrong way to warm up before exercise. Termed static stretches (read: when muscles are stretched while the body is at rest or muscles are “cold”), these techniques may actually inhibit the muscles’ ability to fire and can decrease your performance, strength and power, warns Lim Hun Teck, chief physiotherapist at Raffles Rehabilitation Centre, Raffles Medical Group.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch before exercise though. Hun Teck says stretching before and after a run, for example, helps the body stay loose and healthy. But instead of static stretches, do dynamic ones instead.
By doing slow, controlled movements to warm up your muscles, these dynamic stretches increase the core body temperature, work multiple muscles and improve muscle flexibility. In turn, motion range is improved, your joints are better prepared for sports and the risk of injury is reduced, explains Hun Teck.
To warm up your muscles properly before exercise, do these dynamic stretches instead:
1. Pre-exercise Dynamic Stretch: Arm Crossovers
Move your arms across your chest, criss-crossing each other. Move back and repeat, crossing with the opposite arm on top. Repeat for 20 to 30 seconds.
2. Pre-exercise Dynamic Stretch: Butt Kicks
This warm up stretch targets the quadriceps. While walking, try to touch your butt with your heel. Speed this up by doing this while jogging. Repeat.
3. Pre-exercise Dynamic Stretch: Spinal Rotations
Stand with feet at shoulder width and your arms out to your sides to form a ‘T’ shape. Keeping your lower body still, rotate your upper body back and forth from your right to left sides for one minute.
4. Pre-exercise Dynamic Stretch: Hand Walks
This warm up stretch prepares your shoulders, core muscles, hamstrings. Stand up straight with feet at shoulder width. Swing one leg out to the side and then swing it back across your body in front of the other leg. Repeat
5. Pre-exercise Dynamic Stretch: Hacky Sack
Do this to warm up your groin muscles. Lift your right leg up by bending the knee so that it points out. Tap the inside of your right foot with your left hand without bending forward. Repeat.
This article was written by Magdalene Lee and first appeared in Raffles Healthnews. It has been adapted for www.shape.com.sg.