Cardio or stretching isn't the best way to warm-up for a workout. Here's what you should do instead, according to a personal trainer.
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According to Luke Worthington.Getty, a few minutes on a piece of equipment like an elliptical trainer isn't the best way to start exercising
Doing cardio or stretching to warm up for a workout is a mistake, said personal trainer Luke Worthington.
Instead, you should do "exercise prep" to prepare the body for what you're about to train.
This involves activating the muscles you will be using, which can help prevent injury.
While some exercise enthusiasts swear by cardio or stretches to "warm up" before a workout, personal trainer Luke Worthington said the workout is rooted in outdated exercise wisdom.
Cardio raises body temperature, but it's not an effective way to prepare for the bulk of your workout, whether it's strength training, HIIT, or anything else, he said.
Instead, he said you should do "movement prep," which can include moves like deadbugs and glute bridges, to prepare your body for the exercises you'll be performing.
Personal trainer Don Saladino agrees with Worthington, previously telling Men's Health that cardio isn't the best way to prepare for your workout.
Replace "warm-up" with "movement preparation"
Worthington encourages people to use the term "exercise preparation" rather than "warm-up."
"You should think of it as part of your training, and the purpose is to get your body in the best position and condition to perform the activity that you are going to do," he said.
By spending the first 15 minutes of an hour-long workout preparing for movements, you'll perform better and reduce your risk of injury, Worthington said.
If you have less time than normal, instead of skimping on your movement preparation, skip the exercises you planned to do at the end of your workout (often abs or isolation exercises like bicep curls). This will help you perform your big lifts better, and therefore produce better strength gains and muscle growth, Worthington said.
Opening the body after sitting is part of the preparation for movement. Luke Worthington
To properly set up the movement, you need to get yourself in the right headspace to exercise, perhaps with some breathwork or music.
Next, it is important to consider the individual needs of your body. Someone who is sedentary all day may need to work on opening up their hips. But another person who is on their feet all day might need to focus on bending over.
"It takes you out of the position where you spend most of your time and into positions that are more appropriate for your training," Worthington said.
Think of it as bridging the gap between what your body does all day and what you are about to do, he said.
Activate the muscles you are going to train
Certain exercises, like glute bridges or dead bugs, can help prepare the whole body for the workout. But you should also do exercises that specifically activate the muscles you will be using.
Luke Worthington played a dead bug. Luke Worthington
So, for example, if you're deadlifting and you know you're having trouble contracting your lats, you can do some lat pulldowns with a resistance band to activate those muscles.
When you're doing pull-ups, you want to activate and connect the muscles between your shoulder blades to help keep you stable and support the movement more effectively, Worthington said.
Resistance bands can be useful for activation because they offer consistently low resistance, he said.
Stretching before a workout can do more harm than good
Static stretching before a workout is "a big no-go" and "a really common mistake," Worthington said.
This is because muscles have "protective neural tension" designed to protect the body, he says.
Stretching the muscles makes them more amenable to pulling and essentially reduces that protective mechanism, he said. But protection is important to prevent injuries during training.
"Stretching puts the muscles in a weakened position and relieves protective tension," Worthington said. "If we try to train it, we have to tighten it."
For example, if you stretch your hamstrings before deadlifting, they won't be able to generate as much force, he said.
"Not only is static stretching not useful before a workout, it's potentially quite dangerous," Worthington said.
Stretching muscles that are cold at the start of a workout can actually induce tears, personal trainer Morit Summers told USA Today.
According to a 2013 meta-review by the University of Zagreb, people who did static stretches ran slower, lifted lighter weights, and jumped less high.
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