I’ve always been a fan of being warm. I’m in my slippers right now! But feeling warm and having warm muscles are a bit different. As every movement artists probably knows, warming up is an important step to keeping your body in prime condition for performance and preventing injury. I found some reasoning behind the madness HERE. Without copying it all over, the basics are that we have relatively low blood flow (15-20%) to our skeletal muscles when at rest but with proper warm up the percentage jumps to 70-75. This increase in blood flow increases muscle temperature and oxygen level which boosts performance and efficiency. The article reminds us that a dynamic warm up is preferred to static stretching since it’s the motion that moves the blood. Muscles can also be activated with simple massage using a foam roller or even your hands.
Now that we all get WHY we warm up, let’s see HOW. As a dancer, I typically take or teach classes that run about an hour to an hour and a half. Any style from tap to modern needs warming up. With those lengths, at least a sixth of the time is spent with a technical warm up or about 10-15 minutes. Since the goal is to be getting the blood flowing and your mind focused, setting a warm up that can be done with little explanation helps a ton. Students come in. Music goes on. Warm up happens. Then the rest of the class is spent focused on specific steps and transitions with that culminating combination that feels oh, so, great after a proper start to class.
Let’s say you’re in my beginning tap class. We start slowly with some ankle rolls that go both directions followed by a little shake to remind us all to stay loose. From there it’s all up. Each component adds a little complexity or speed which progressively makes our muscles warm and gets our blood flowing. Considering the combination at the end often includes some quicker movements that need to be accurate, having the ability to start slowly and work up to it really improves clarity.
Remember, though, I’m warming tap dancers up by tapping. If you’re preparing to do a routine on the Lyra or work on partner yoga transitions, your warm up will be different. Preparing the muscles that you will be using and working through your range of motion is very activity-specific. Singing scales won’t help you pull up to the trapeze.
How do you warm up for your movement art?