What is a warm-up? It is a relatively vague term that you probably hear thrown around a lot, but do you know exactly when, why, and how you should warm up? It can be difficult to gauge how effective your warm-up is and what it should consist of. This blog will teach you how to design and use a proper warm-up that will optimize your training, reduce the risk of injury, and save time.
WHY IS A WARM-UP SO IMPORTANT?
Your warm-up is important because it is going to lay the foundation for your upcoming training session. The warm-up serves to prepare your body to perform safe and effective movement. More often than not we find ourselves training in the morning, after hours of lying in bed, or at the end of the work day, after hours of sitting at a desk. If we just walked into the gym and started pressing, pulling, and swinging right away the immediate overload to our nervous system would be enough to render our training ineffective that day, not to mention we would be putting ourselves at a high risk for injury. So the warm-up allows us to gradually prepare for the work to come ultimately making your training more effective.
Another reason your warm-up is so important is it allows you to prepare your mind to perform. There are plenty of distractions that you may be dealing with outside the gym and your warm-up should allow you to dump those distractions and refocus on the task at hand. Use this time to take inventory of what you are feeling physically and mentally and what adjustments you need to make in order to perform at your best. Dial in your breathing and take notice of how things are moving and feeling. Review any movement cues that have helped you and begin to review your upcoming training session. If you understand what you are about to do you can better focus on your preparation and therefore optimize your performance.
HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR WARM-UP
When structuring your warm-up, it is important to be specific to the day’s training schedule. You should address major joints and muscle groups that will be used during training in the order of soft tissue work, flexibility, mobility, muscle activation and dynamic movement.
Soft Tissue Work (5 Minutes)
Simply put this is direct contact with your body’s soft tissues, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules. The most available and effective way to go about this is with a foam roller, lacrosse ball or softball. When warming-up, this technique serves two purposes. The first is to release tension in the muscle by applying pressure and the second is to break up scar tissue and adhesions of tissue surrounding the muscle.
Flexibility and Mobility (5 Minutes)
Flexibility refers to range of motion without muscle control, while mobility refers to the joint range of motion controlled by the appropriate muscle(s). You can train these as either active or passive. Active means that you are controlling the movement. Take a look at Coach Crush working on his Active Mobility Passive means that you are being acted on by an external force e.g. gravity, band or strap. Watch Coach G and Coach Crush demonstrate passive mobility.
Activation (5 - 10 minutes)
After your soft tissue and flexibility/mobility work you are ready to move on to muscle activation. At this point we want be more specific to the demands of our upcoming workout. “Activating” the muscle is simply preparing the proper muscle groups to perform efficiently. You are building the connection from mind to muscle before jumping into the main lifts of the day. For example if you have been sitting at your desk all day, you need to activate your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core which have been relatively inactive all day. This might include a hip bridge with mini band Clam Shells for 3-4 sets before performing the lift.
Dynamic Movement (5-10 Minutes)
Last but not least, finish your preparation with a dynamic circuit. Choose 2 or 3 bodyweight or light exercises with similar patterns to the day’s main lifts and dial in your form and control. In preparation for a squat this might include Lateral Squats with a Squat Pry.
Your warm-up should be specific to what you are doing that day and what you have been doing prior. It should take you approximately 15-30 minutes or even longer depending on your objectives and needs. Take the time to acclimate your body and mind to your training setting and prepare yourself to train efficiently right from the start.
If you have any questions about designing your warm-up or If you would like to learn more about how you can optimize your health and performance, contact the Ethos Fitness + Performance team or visit our Blog.