Achieving optimal fitness takes more than picking up weights or endlessly running. Wellness professionals continually remind us that warming up is an important component to any workout. But the exercises you choose are critical. For years, static stretching—stretches held for a prolonged period of time—was an accepted pre-workout practice. However, recent research shows that static stretching not only fails to warm us up properly, it may actually be detrimental to our athletic performance during exercise. Instead of static stretches, consider dynamic stretching, or mobilizers.
Mobilizing exercises are simple, repetitive movements aimed at improving range of motion in the joints and increasing circulation throughout the body. The increased blood flow raises the body temperature, literally warming the muscles, and carries the oxygen and nutrients needed for the muscles to strengthen and stretch efficiently and effectively. On the flip side, a “cold” muscle has less-than-optimal blood flow. The result is inflexible muscle fibers. When you ask a cold muscle to stretch suddenly, the muscle may pull or tear.
When you mobilize joints prior to exercise, it decreases risk of injury and increases muscle strength and flexibility. Without mobilizing, developing optimal strength and flexibility is more difficult. Accelerate progress toward your health and fitness goals with proper warm-up techniques. Try our top three mobilizers (below) before you next workout to see and feel the difference. And then try our mobilizing warm-up!
- Hand Warmer. Frictioning the hands increases blood flow to the hands and arms while simultaneously stimulating the nervous system; did you know you have more nerve endings in your hands than any other part of the body?
- Hip Circles. Hip circles increase mobility in the hips, legs, and feet. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, and place hands on hips. Move the hips in a circular motion (front, right, back, left) 10 times. Make the circles as big as you can while keeping the feet grounded with equal pressure on the bases of the toes and the heels. Repeat in the opposite direction (front, left, back, right).
- Shoulder Rolls. The shoulders are one of the most mobile joints in the body. Rolling the shoulders before exercise primes the surrounding muscles for movement so they can best support the joint. The increased blood flow to the area breaks up and adhesions and minimizes stiffness. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart and arms hanging loosely by your sides. Roll the shoulders in a circular motion (up, back, down, front) about 10 times. Now, repeat in the opposite direction (up, front, down, back). If you feel the shoulders cracking and popping, simply reduce the size of your circles. When you start small and then gradually increase the size of your circles as the joint warms up, cracking and popping is drastically reduced.