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Warm up.. what a milquetoast phrase. It implies something of lesser importance, something you have to do before you start the real training. Contrary to popular opinion the workout actually starts in the warm up and in fact what you do before training is often more important than what you do when you actually train.
The warm up is the foundation which the workout is built on. If your workout is bad your training is bad. You open yourself up for injury and deny yourself of optimal training. Lets quickly examine what’s the purpose behind warming up.
The goal of any warm up is to increase blood circulation and raise internal temperature, especially around the joints. A good warm up increases joint lubrication and increases range of motion. It also aims to mobilize joints and loosen tight areas.
For this I follow Mike Boyl’s philosophy of joint-by-joint approach which tell us every joint has specific needs. Here’s the cliff-notes — you can read the main article here.
As such a warm up must address the needs for every joint. That doesn’t mean you have to do every movements for every joint, but you must find movements that fit those needs. For example a rotational squat addresses ankle mobility, knee stability and hip mobility. Thus it would be a great exercise to do for a warm up. On the other hand a movement like the scorpion is a terrible idea as it increase mobility in the lower back – a joint that requires stability.
For the actual warm up progression, here’s what I recommend:
Continue reading for what to do for every phase
Or soft-tissue work addresses varying muscle densities, tightness or knots in the muscle tissue. It’s critical to foam roll before you stretch as stretching knotted muscle increases the chance of a muscle tear.
Note: Put your arms crossed in front of you, with the elbows parallel to each other. This will push the scapula forward enabling you to target the back muscles.
Note #2: Roll each muscle separately, don’t do both pairs at time.
You can also use a tennis ball to roll the bottom of your feet, calves, tibialis anterior, chest, lats and upper back muscles.
You don’t have to roll every muscle group before every workout. Instead look for muscles that are especially tight. In my opinion the priority is upper/lower back, glute, glute medius, TFL, IT Band and thigh abbductors.
Foam roll everyday as well, not just for your warm up.
I know static stretching before training leaves a poor taste in a lot of people’s mouth but doing some static stretching is essential. It’s important here to recognize tightness and address it. I recommend holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds but not more. Don’t stretch areas that you have sufficient flexibility in. The key is not to be tight but also not too loose.
Stretches to do:
After you finished your statics, its time to move on to dynamic stretching. One key component for get a good dynamic warm up is isolating the muscle group you are targeting, stabilizing the other groups and slowly increasing range of motion. Attempting to jump into full range of motion often leads to incorrect muscle activation and improper stretching movement.
Do these stretches:
Again with the mobility exercises you want to pick a handful that you always do. For example my favorites are leg swings, high knees, wall slides, ankle mobilization, lunges and rotational squat. It’s important to focus on the muscles that you will be training that day, shoulders, back, upper back for chest days – although you still want to do some lower body.
Now you’ve finished your warm up you have to move on to the exercise warm up. Which generally people pick up the bar and haphazardly go through the movements to warm up.What I have my clients do is something I called activation pattern. The idea behind it is to treat the warm up the same way as you would your heaviest set. Your form on your warm up should be optimal. Focus on the movement, come down controlled and drive up explosively.
The purpose of this warm up or activation pattern is to prime up the CNS for the movement. This also acts to remind your body how to move, and you will see a great increase in intensity and workload.
I hope this article has been helpful. I know I’ve neglected warm up for many years and wondered why my training would suffer. With a proper warm up you will have less injuries and better results. Please post any questions or comments you have!