Warming up for a workout.
Walk on the tread mill for a few minutes. Do some stretches.
Maybe pick up a lighter weight a few times….
Done, done, and done!
All warmed up…
Not so fast my little Road Runner!
There is a lot more to a proper warm-up than just going for a walk/jog and doing a few random stretches.
In fact there are 4 major concerns that should be addressed when designing and implementing any warm-up.
WARNING: The next few paragraphs are nerdy; read if it amuses you otherwise feel free to skip to the program at the bottom of this blog post.
1) INCREASE THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR BODY
This will create more extensibility in soft tissue and excite your central nervous system. It will also help lubricate your joints by decreasing the viscosity of synovial fluids.
Fancy way of saying warm joints are happy joints. This is the one thing most athletes get right. Jogging, jumping jacks, brisk walks, or just playing catch will all help to warm-up the soft tissue of the body.
2) IMPROVE TISSUE QUALITY
Imagine a shoe string with some knots in it.
You pull both ends of the string but the knots only draw tighter.
The shoe string never reached its optimum length.
This is what happens when you stretch a muscle that needs allot of foam rolling 1st. It NEVER reaches its optimum length.
It is never fully stretched.
This is bad.
Elite athletes get a massage before exercise. Unfortunately not all of us are that elite despite what our moms say… If you are like me and not an elite athlete then that means using a foam roller to address your tissue quality. Lacrosse balls, tennis balls, tiger tails, and several other items can be used as well for specific body parts or more advanced clients.
3) INCREASE YOUR TISSUE LENGTH
This is where your basic mobility drills will come in.
NO, they are not what we learned in PE about stretch and hold for 30 seconds.
Static stretching drills like we performed in P.E. class decrease the activity of our central nervous system. Quite simply they put your body to sleep when the goal was to awake it up for our workout. We want to focus on at most a 5 second stretch on each of our movements for multiple sets. So think 6 sets of 5 seconds instead of 1 set of 30 seconds. Your muscle will lengthen BUT not relax too much so that it is still prepared for exercise.
Start with small, specific movements and then move into larger more dynamic movements.
Ideally you would go through a movement screen as well to make sure that not only you are stretching in the right way but that you are also stretching the right muscles in the right way!
4) USE ACTIVATION DRILLS TO IMPROVE MOTOR CONTROL
We sit down a lot! This basically causes our glutes and upper back muscles to develop a sense of “amnesia” if you will.
We need to get them active and ready to work.
Think of exercises that require a “squeeze and relax” type of contraction. This will help pre-engage the brain to fire those muscles better when the loads get heavier.
Examples include glute bridges, prone Y/T/A’s, and iso-metric lunge holds.
Walking on the treadmill just isn’t enough. It only meets 1 of the 4 criteria and therefore means that you are leaving results on the table.
When you address all 4 criteria in your warm-up your body will be in an optimum position to reach peak performance as well as resist injury.
Warm-ups at Stowe Training Systems transition from a ground based activity to standing activities and address all concerns.
An example warm-up might look like this:
FOAM ROLL: Quadriceps, IT Bands, Calves
5 sets of 5 seconds Hip Flexor Mobility per side
1 set of 10 per side Split Stance Hip Swivels
1 set of 15 Glute Bridge
1 set of 10 Side Bridge Leg raises per side: (Wall is not necessary for this exercise)
1 set of 10 per side Walking Single Leg RDL
1 set of 10 per side Spider-Man Lunge with Rotation
This template warm-up will take about 10-15 minutes to complete and guarantee that you are being the best that you can be. Ideally we would go through a movement screen to make sure that each of the drills is customized to the athlete, however with that being said most of us sit too much and these exercise examples work out super well around 99% of the time.
It doesn’t matter what you know, but what you do with what you know in the end.
So apply what you learn here and get to the real workout already!