Before you do a workout of any kind, you need a thorough warm-up. The warm-up portion of your workout helps to get your muscles ready for action. Thoroughly warming up can help you prevent injury and improve your performance during the workout. How long your warm-up will be depends on what kind of workout you are doing. Do not worry so much about the exact length of your warm-up. Aim for a warm-up that includes all of the important components.
At bare minimum, your warm-up period should be five minutes long. If you are practicing an intricate sport like gymnastics or ballet, you need much longer than five minutes to properly warm up. Also, when your muscles are extremely sore from a previous workout, you will need to take more time to warm up. In general, aim for a five to 10 minute warm-up period before any workout. Flex this time frame up as needed, but never skip it. Also, do not abbreviate your warm-up to less than five minutes.
Every warm-up should start with a brief period of cardiovascular exercise to get blood pumping to your muscles and ready them to workout. Depending on the length of warm-up you are planning, spend three to five minutes performing light aerobic activity. Jogging, marching in place and light stationary biking are all great options for the beginning of your warm-up. Remember to keep your pace slow. You should work at a pace that allows you to still carry on a conversation during this portion of your workout.
After getting the blood pumping to your muscles, it is time to start preparing those muscles to work. Spend two to five minutes doing dynamic stretching to warm up your muscles. Dynamic stretching uses motion to prepare your muscles for action. Leg swings, knee lifts, torso twists and arm circles are all examples of dynamic stretches to include in your warm-up. Start your dynamic stretching motions small, increasing the range of the motion with each repetition. Complete six to eight repetitions of each motion in a flowing manner. Do not worry so much about how long your dynamic stretching lasts. Instead, make sure you get a thorough head-to-toe warm-up that hits on all of the major muscles groups in your body.
A final component of a warm-up is static stretching. Static stretches are those that are held in a stationary position. Hold static stretches for 30 seconds while breathing deeply through the stretch. While most of your static stretching should be done during your cool-down to improve flexibility, some static stretching should be included in your warm-up. In general, include static stretches for the areas of your body that will be called upon the most during the workout you are about to do. For example, if you are running that day, include some static stretches for your legs. If you are swimming, include static stretches for your upper body. The static stretching part of your warm-up could be as short as two minutes or much longer if you are doing an activity like cheer leading or track.