Holy Name Medical Center Blog

Guidelines for Returning to the Gym:

Performing a Safe and Effective Warm-Up

Posted by Christopher J. Cordero, PT, DPT, OCS
Physical Therapist
Board-certified Clinical Specialist, Orthopedic Physical Therapy
HNH Fitness, Center for Physical Rehabilitation on November 4, 2020

There is much excitement surrounding the reopening of our gyms. For some, it is the idea of returning to a normal, daily routine, and picking up where we left off many months ago. For others, it poses an opportunity to begin improving our overall health and wellness with the hopes of preventing chronic ailments.

Whatever your reason or experience level, it is important to follow an evidence-based plan to ensure you are not only gaining the most out of every workout, but are exercising safely and consistently throughout your lifespan.

The Benefits of Exercising

It is well documented that exercising can help improve your overall health and prevent the path to chronic illnesses. In particular, participating in regular exercise can improve the cardiovascular system, prevent the destructive effects of metabolic syndrome, boost the immune system, help those experiencing depression and anxiety, and even enhance cognitive abilities.

However, in order to maximize these incredible health benefits, it is important to exercise regularly and consistently over long periods of time. Performing an effective warm-up before every workout is one way to help you achieve those goals.

The Warm-Up

Warming up is one of the most important components of any successful exercise routine. As the term implies, it is the action of increasing core body temperature. Warming up assists in elevating the heart rate, increasing blood circulation, enhancing extensibility and contractility of the musculature, and preparing the mind and body to perform the subsequent workout at an optimal level. All of these qualities of a proper warm-up are critical in the prevention of injury.

An effective warm-up should begin in a state of lower intensity, slowly transitioning to a higher intensity as you approach your main workout. Your warm-up should last anywhere between 5-20 minutes and should be just as unique as the workout you are about to perform. For example, someone participating in yoga should warm up differently than a football player preparing for the start of the game.

Types of Warm-ups

Below are two general warm-up routines, which can be adapted for any individual.

  1. Cardio/Endurance Warm-Up

    Mode: walk, jog, run, bike, elliptical, stair/step climber machine, rower, upper body ergometer

    This form of warming up is the most common method and can be performed before most types of workouts. It is an effective way of increasing circulation throughout the entire body, while gradually elevating the heart rate. This method is also highly adaptable, as one could select between a lower impact technique (i.e. bike, elliptical) versus a higher impact technique (i.e. running, stair climber).

  2. Dynamic Warm-Up

    Mode: open space, cones, agility ladder, resistance bands

    Although a dynamic warm-up routine is typically associated with athletes preparing for competition, individuals of all abilities are able to perform it. A dynamic warm-up is simply a collection of total body, coordinated movements with the intention of activating the neuromuscular system (nerves and muscles) and achieving optimal range of motion throughout the spine, hips and shoulders. A dynamic warm-up should include movements specific to the intended workout or sport.

    1. Example 1 – The Powerlifter:
      1. Hip and ankle mobility activities
      2. Power skip
      3. Body weight squats and lunges
      4. Plank variations to activate core musculature

    2. Example 2 – The Casual Gym-goer:
      1. Standing hip swings forward and back, side to side
      2. Standing forward and backward arm circles
      3. Forward marching or forward lunges
      4. Sidestepping with resistance banded loop around the ankle or knees

    At the completion of the warm-up, your body should be prepared to perform at an optimal level, while simultaneously preventing injury during the rigors of an intense workout.

  3. *Please consult with your physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine.

Christopher J. Cordero, PT, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist and board-certified specialist in orthopedic physical therapy by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Dr. Cordero practices at HNH Fitness and trains athletes of all ages and abilities with a focus on implementing evidence-based injury prevention techniques and developing proper body mechanics. Dr. Cordero finds passion in the clinical and educational aspects of physical therapy, using manual orthopedic techniques and exercise to help patients regain function in their lives.

Dr. Cordero can be reached by email at ccordero@holyname.org.

Call to schedule an appointment at 201-265-1076.

HNH Fitness | 514 Kinderkamack Road | Oradell, NJ | 07649