I see it far to often. Someone comes in to the gym and does one of few things.
- Hops on a bike, treadmill, or elliptical for 5-10 minutes and then hits the weights.
- Walks right back to the weight room and starts cranking out sets (or for you Crossfitters jumps right into a WOD)
- Sends a couple of texts, plays a game of Candy Crush, twists their body around a bit and then gets into a workout. Usually still texting, playing Candy Crush, and twisting their body around randomly. Sort of looks like this.
Todays post is inspired by you. Well, maybe not you specifically – but I’ve received a few emails asking how to warm up properly so that you can avoid injury and maximize performance and time while in the gym (or where ever you workout).
Most people don’t take warming up seriously enough and some don’t even schedule it into their workout. Well lucky for you, I’ve got my serious face on today – I call it “Blue Serious.”
So now that you’re reading muscles are all warmed up from this intro…
See what I did there 🙂
Lets do this dang thing shall we?
WHAT IS WARMING UP?
Here is what an EFFECTIVE warm up does.
- It enhances your range of motion (ROM)
- It increases your mobility
- It increases your body temperature
- It promotes oxygen uptake
- It wakes up your nervous system
- It boosts both the speed and force of muscle contraction
- Loosen muscles, ligaments, tendons, and works up a little sweat
An effective warm up will also allow you to visualize the movements and mentally prep before exercise. It allows you to take some time to remind yourself of proper form and technique such as; pushing your knees out while squatting so that they don’t collapse in on you.
A good warm up is important because:
- It can release stiffness
- Reduce the risk of injury
- Improve poor flexibility and help with proper form/technique during exercise
Warming up actually is more important than your actual workout. Long story short, how are you suppose to get in consistent workouts if you’re laid up in bed with your back thrown out, walking around holding the back of your thighs with pulled hammy’s, or a busted up shoulder that you can’t lift over your head? Warming up properly should be emphasized at the beginning of each of your scheduled workouts and not rushed through by any means.
STATIC STRETCHING, DYNAMIC, BALLISTIC, FOAM ROLLING? WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO WARM UP
Before deciding the best way to warm up lets take a look at a few common ways that most people use to prime themselves for beast mode activity.
An old skool (spelled with a K on purpose for dramatic effect) warm up usually involves static stretching and not much else. If you have kids you might see the coach running them through some stretches before a practice or game.
Static stretching: Involves holding a particular position just beyond comfortability for 10 to 90 seconds, releasing, and repeating for a couple of sets. Think about when you were in gym class and the teacher asked you to reach down and try to touch your toes.Here are a few examples of some static stretches from the Limitless365 Fitness Program.
Static stretching is great for a couple of things:
- It can help improve flexibility (but not necessarily mobility).
- It can help with balance (Getting your yoga game right)
- It can help with coordination
However, static stretching does not help much with preventing injury, preparing your for weight lifting, running, or explosive movements like box jumps. The increased flexibility might actually decrease strength and jumping performance.
The problem with regular static stretching is that is usually does more harm than good. According to researchers at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York, static stretching actually weakens muscle for up to 30 minutes when performed before workouts. This little nugget is actually backed by a recent study conducted at the University of Las VEGAS baby!
Athletes that underwent static stretching before intense strength training sessions were actually 30% weaker than when no stretching was conducted at all. I don’t know about you but I want to be as strong as possible. Regular static stretching can also lead to injuries. For example, if one leg is stretched more than the other your central nervous system can rebel. While Limitless365 is all for rebellion, not when we are trying to workout. The rebellion can lead to muscular imbalances before training which can than lead to serious injuries. Save the static stretching for after workouts.
“…Another study from researchers at the University of Zagreb reviewed 104 studies of people who only practiced static stretching as their warm-up and found that stretching reduced muscle strength by 5.5%. The second study looked at fit men who completed basic squats while lifting barbells either with or without stretching beforehand. Those that stretched lifted 8.3% less weight than those who didn’t.
And these are not the only studies to report the trend. In fact, most physical trainers haven’t recommended long bouts of stretching before workouts for some time. Most suggest just a little light and brief stretch beforehand, and spending more time on recovery stretching afterwards. “It has been a long time since anyone has recommended extensive stretching before exercise, because it has been known for a while now that the best time to stretch is after,” says Richard Cotton, the national director of certification at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)…(1)“
Foam Rolling: Is a simple process that allows us to use our own body weight to apply pressure and help in releasing tension. Anyone new to foam rolling should start with a less dense foam roller as it can be a bit of a painful experience the first few times. If you are a bit of a masochist and can endure some unconformability I would suggest making or picking up a high density foam roller.
You’ll want to focus on rolling out the long muscle groups like your calves, adductors (or inner thigh), quadricep, and IT band. When rolling out these muscle groups you will want to focus on long, slow, and deliberate strokes. Once you’ve found some trigger points (you’ll know as it will hurt a bit) stop rolling and apply pressure to that area with your roller and own bodyweight in order to loosen it up.
Smaller muscle groups of the lower body also need to be paid attention to. The TFL, hip rotator, and butt cheeks should be rolled out with quick short strokes or static pressure.
I wrote an entire article about foam rolling and how to build your own foam roller already so I won’t repeat myself. I enjoy a good foam roll for a few minutes before a workout. Alone it’s not the most effective way to warm up but combined with other methods it is a nice addition.
Ballistic stretching: Involves bouncing and rebounding in and out of a stretch past the normal range of motion (ROM). I would not recommend this for most people.
The “cardio” warm up: I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to get a 5 minute walk, jog, row, or bike in and then jump right into their workout. Cardiovascular movements like these should definitely be apart of your warm up but not on their own.
They do a great job of helping to increase body temperature but they don’t do a ton to help with range of motion.
Dynamic warm up: The majority of the rest of this article will focus on dynamic movements as a way to warm up because it has been shown to be the most effective way to prep the body for exercise, increase performance, and reduce the risk of injury.
In an informal experiment conducted by Precision Nutrition, a dynamic warmup helped men increase the three rep max (3RM) of their bench press from 206 to 210 pounds.
Dynamic warm ups will:
- Wake up the nervous system
- Help with power output
- Increase range of motion in the joints
- Increase blood flow/circulation
- Raise your core body temperature
- Address nerve impulses
WHAT EXACTLY IS A DYNAMIC WARM UP
Some solid body weight movements like air squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and superman’s, as well as arm circles, leg kicks, trunk rotations, neck movements, and toe touches should do the trick.
It includes usually includes a specific number of reps (i.e. 8-15) or length (i.e. 100 meters) to be traveled and can also involve other movements like:
It may even include moving the body with the use of light resistance/weight like in the RDL exercise.
WHAT YOUR NEXT WARM UP SHOULD LOOK LIKE
Most of the population works sitting at a desk for a majority of the day, so the example below will emphasize a great warm up for those of you that just finished a long day at the office and are ready to get your workout swerve on.
However, if you don’t workout at a desk this doesn’t mean you can’t do the following dynamic warm up.
It is actually the same warm up I do with all of my in person clients, remote coaching clients, before most of the Crossfit classes I teach, and the same warm up I do for myself.
Step 1… We can have lots of fun (A NKOTB reference for ya) 5 minutes of cardio vascular work.
The cardiovascular work you choose to do for your warm-up should be specific to the type of cardiovascular exercise you are performing that day. If you are rowing, than row. Running, than run. Jumping rope, than jump rope.
You can also mix it up if you’d like. A minute on the bike, a minute on the rower, a minute jog, etc… Even if you’re not doing anything aerobic for the day this should be included.
5-10 good minutes of this will do the trick. Work at about 60-70%% effort (you should be able to carry a conversation) and mix in a few short higher intensities that last about 10-20 seconds every so often. Just enough to elevate heart rate a bit and work up a small sweat. Not enough to create a stink-fest but just enough to make it look like you are working really hard.
Step 2: The dynamic part
Here is a video example of the entire warm up I use. It includes how to do each movement with proper form and technique.
- Arm circles: 10 big circles forward, 10 big circles backwards, 10 small circles forward, 10 small circles backwards.
- Frankenstein Walks: 20 kicks on each leg.
- Inchworm push up: 5 reps
- Jumping good morning: 15 reps
- Karaoke: Roughly 50 meters one way and 50 meters coming back.
- Walking lunge with high knee: 20 total steps.
- Plank bird dog: 10 total (5 on each side)
- Shuffle: Roughly 50 meters one way and 50 meters coming back.
- Trunk twists: 20
I usually like to do this twice but if you’re pressed for time once will be enough. All in all it should take you between 2 and 10 minutes to complete depending on how many times you run through it.
Just a little heads up that if you do this fairly quickly (which you should) it will almost feel like a workout. But that’s a good thing!
Again, here is the link to this specific warm up demo.
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WARMING UP?
If you have a desk job and workout after work then a solid warm up is a must for helping with performance and reducing the risk of injury.
It’s going to be damn hard to get healthier if you’re injured right?
Some body parts often get neglected during exercises and warm ups. It may be a good idea to pay special attention to your ankles, hips, back, and shoulders.
One foot hops side to side and front to back will help loosen up the ankles. You can also perform ankle rolls in all directions. I actually just like to do this randomly.
Lastly, you don’t have to use the dynamic warm up example above just for a warm up. I like to run through it over the course of a day as a way to break up work, keep me energized, loose, and happy.
Any of you neglecting the warm up?
Is there a specific warm up you use that has been effective?
Are some of the warm up exercises too tough for you (let me know and I’ll give you some modifications).
TAKE ACTION USING THIS ARTICLE:
- Right down the warm up exercises on an index card or pull up the video on your smart phone so that the next time you’re in the gym you can get your warm up on.
- Answer the questions above by commenting on this post below.
- Share this article with a friend, on “The Book.” or tweet it out.
- Any ideas for making these posts better and more helpful for you as a reader?