“I’ll just jog on the treadmill for 5 minutes,” or “ I’m going to stretch out my shoulders for a few,” or “I can simply roll the tension out and be ready to go.” These elements of what may seem like a typical warm-up might be useful, but do they really drive you toward getting the most out of each gym workout and prevent future need of sports medicine or rehab? Here are some (not all) reasons why you might warm-up:
- Reduce soreness
- Injury Prevention
- Muscle Stretching/Activation
- Prep for a specific movement performed later in the workout
While these reasons to warm up before a workout might not be directly related to your individual fitness or performance goals, they certainly have enormous impacts on the quality of your workouts. It is important that your warm-ups have a clear purpose and address areas of movement that are relevant to that specific workout. This is where most fall short.
Ok, so what does a proper warm-up entail? Well, at Chadwick’s, our personal trainers follow this simple warm-up flow. We start on the ground with soft tissue work and slowly work up to dynamic movements such as running and jumping.
1) Grab a Foam Roller
There is a reason we keep foam rollers right next to the weight room door; it’s the first thing you implement before every workout. The foam roller and other myofascial release tools such as tennis balls and massage sticks are great for working out tension and fascial adhesions that can be caused by previous exercise.
An example would be massaging the pecs with a massage ball a few days after a big chest workout you had Monday. It’s now Wednesday and this trigger point helps release any tension in the pecs prior to your upcoming back workout. Because the back and the chest are antagonists – meaning they perform opposite movements, you want to ensure that the chest isn’t winning in a game of tug-o-war with your back muscles. If you disregard this crucial step, you may be dealing with a shoulder injury while not understanding where it came from. Don’t skip this step. Get the kinks out and grab a foam roller before you do anything else in the gym.
Personal training is the best way to ensure you’re getting safe and healthy exercises. Visit Chadwick’s Fitness in the Franklin, TN area to get started today.
2) Mobilize, Mobilize, Mobilize
Now that you’ve worked out the kinks, it’s time to work your muscles through their respective ranges of motion. This is where you can think about the specific movements performed for the upcoming workout and the mobility demands required in order to ensure proper form and minimize the risk of injury. Mobility restrictions are a huge risk while exercising and should never be ignored.
A simple example of necessary mobility practice would be dynamically stretching (no hold) the hip flexors on a day where hip extension exercises (squats, deadlifts, RDL’s, etc.) are going to be performed.
But why the order of foam roll, then stretch? If we skipped the first step (foam roll), then the tension within the muscle would restrict that muscle from achieving its end range of motion, and you can’t necessarily stretch out fascial adhesions that are addressed with foam rolling. So, during a high intensity exercise within the upcoming workout, if you overstretch that muscle, you now risk a strain or tear in that muscle. This is simply due to the fact that you were unable to take the muscle through its full range of motion earlier in the warm-up. Stretch, stretch, stretch!
3) Activation – Flip the Switch
It’s time to turn your muscles on and get a good burn to wake up the system. At Chadwick’s personal training and group fitness, we like to use banded resistance work to achieve this because the resistance is light and therefore the risk is minimal. Also, you could also add in some light external loads such as light kettlebells, dumbbells, or medicine balls to your activation routine.
An example of a good activation drill for a workout in which you will be squatting would be banded RNT (reactive neuromuscular training) squats. Loop a mini-band right above both knees and also around both ankles. From here, feet need to be shoulder width apart and there needs to be tension on both bands. Keeping your feet firmly planted, initiate the squat with your hips and try to keep as much tension on each band as you both descend and ascend during the squat exercise. This helps to establish proper movement throughout a squat movement and primes the muscles for the heavier loads you will lift later. It’s time to flip the switch!
4) Turn Up the Heat
Now that your muscles are activated and ready to go, you’ll want to get the blood pumping. Run a few laps, hop on a treadmill, crank out some calories on the rower, climb the Washington Monument on the Versa. These are some – but not even close to all – of the ways in which you can increase your body temperature before a great workout.
One of the biggest reasons for increasing your body temperature prior to intense exercise is that it makes your muscles more elastic. Picture a rubber band that you put in the freezer for a couple hours. You’ve pulled the rubber band out of the freezer to see if you can stretch it to its original length. SNAP! It breaks within an inch of being stretched! On the flip side, you hold a rubber band in your fist for a couple minutes allowing it to warm up. Now when you stretch the rubber band it extends much further. This is because heat causes the rubber band to become more elastic.
Well, like rubber bands, muscles tend to work in a similar manner. If you neglect to warm up your muscles properly by increasing your body temperature, you run the risk of… well… POP! Nobody wants a torn muscle to get in the way of their weight loss or strength goals. The final step in your warm-up process should be to build up a sweat and turn up the heat.
Are you looking for personal training in Franklin, TN? Visit Chadwick’s Fitness to learn more!