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Stretching vs warming up. What are the differences and what should I do?

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

Confusing messages from instructors and YouTube videos constantly bombard novice weightlifters. One of the most confusing messages is to “warm up before working out.” What follows it typically is a demonstration of stretching—not a proper warm-up.

I believe stretching has the same effect on the body as warming up for a sufficient period of time. These two activities serve very different purposes. But they're both essential aspects of your workout routine.

To prepare for a workout, the body must be ready to move the joints that are going to be used during exercise. That's why it's so important to warm up before stretching. Warming up improves blood flow to the muscles and ligaments that are going to be stressed during exercise.

It also increases your core temperature and gets your heart rate up. This helps prepare the muscles for a good workout.

In “Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance,” a paper that analyzed the correlation between various exercises and warm-ups, warming up resulted in a 79% improvement in athletic performance in almost all forms of exercise.

You might be wondering—if warming up helps prevent injury and improves performance, what’s the point of stretching?

In general, warming up is better than stretching and can be applied to almost any situation. But there are several exercises where stretching is a better choice for improved performance.

Stretching yields better performance improvements for exercises where joint mobility is crucial. Examples include gymnastics, yoga, or pilates. But studies show that stretching fatigues muscles, resulting in decreased performance.

So, let’s figure out how to warm up properly.

An effective warm-up includes movements that increase your heart rate and breathing. It'll also slightly increase the temperature of your muscles. If you can’t figure out what’s what, a good indication of a proper warm-up is whether you’ve raised a light sweat or not.

There are several options for warming up,

  • Treadmill (10 mins)

  • Air Squats

  • Jumping Jacks

  • Side Shuffles

  • Lunges


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