We are always encouraged to warm up before we perform any form of exercise or physical activity. When we question this, it always comes down to making sure that your joints are loosened up, your blood is flowing, and the muscles are pumped. However, what really happens when we warm up? Are we just wasting energy unnecessarily? Well, there is evidence to show that it actually has a far greater impact than you think.

So, what does warming up do?

Warming up before you burst into action kick starts a chain of internal processes in the body. The most notable process that is activated in the body is the change in your body’s cellular energy source, ATP.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the molecular chemical that your body uses to transport energy between, and within, cells. By increasing your body’s core temperature – even something as small as one or two degrees – drastically increases the rate at which ATP is broken down, in order to provide more energy to meet the demand. The faster ATP is broken down and released into the body, the faster energy can be used by the body for movement.

We would not be able to train effectively if we were using the same energy expenditure as when we are sedentary. To provide the energy necessary to the body for working out, ATP needs to be broken down quicker, thus the need for a warm up. Also, there is better nerve conductivity and muscle contraction velocity when we warm up, leading to better muscle performance and growth.

What about the part about joints being loosened up? Well, that’s actually true. When we warm up we activate the increase in synovial fluid within the joint, providing more lubrication. This also applies to connective tissue, as warming up makes tendons and ligaments (connective tissue) more elastic and stretchy, preventing a tear or other damage.

Now that that has been answered, the other remains; when are we warm enough? The answer is really simple. You have warmed up enough when you feel a light sweating, your breath is slightly increased, and you feel nice and warm in your musculature. The time it takes you to get there is individual based, it could take you 5 minutes or half an hour. Other factors such as the clothes you are wearing, the room temperature, and the activity you are using to warm up all make an impact as well.

Warming up really does help

Warming up alters the way in which ATP is broken down in the body so that the body has a rapid energy source to feed off, as well as activating a number of other processes in connective tissue, as well as ad increase in blood flow. Simply, it is necessary before we train, and is well worth the extra 10 minutes.

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