Take a look around the training facilities you have been associated with. I would guess that the majority of you have seen or been a part of a bad warm-up routine.
People usually copy which stretching moves that are popular that day or repeat the same warm up they have learn from a class before and then jump right into their workout. If there is no specificity and direction for your warm-up, you will not be working out to your optimal performance level.
There have been times where I’ve heard that a warm up is not need or that it should be short. I've also heard clients talking about saving their energy for the “real” workout. The truth is, if your body is not warmed up properly, there is a higher chance of you injuring yourself, or you may never experience the performance benefits which will cause your longevity in the gym to suffer.
Here are a few tips to make sure that you are warming up properly:
1) Have a plan specifically for the movements you are doing that day.
It wouldn’t make sense to prioritize your warm up around your arms and shoulders if you are primarily squatting that day.
2) I usually keep my warm ups between 15-25 minutes. This may include the warm up sets to work up to the working desired weights.
A general warm up template would look like this:
- 5-10 minutes of aerobic activity
1. Stimulate the sympathetic pathway
a. The sympathetic pathway is responsible for regulating our “flight of Flight” response. It’s how our body prepares for threats, in this case, a tough workout!
b. 5-10 minutes of ROWING, jumping, running can easily elevate your heart rate, increase blood flow, break a sweat, and stimulate the sympathetic system
c. You can get more creative as you become more comfortable but for starters, keep it simple 5-10 minutes of mobility and stability
- 5-10 minutes of mobility and stability
1. Target areas that need mobility and stability work
a. We ALL have areas where we are tight or lack stability in certain positions. This is the time to address those areas to increase your range of motion during the warm up process.
b. Through mobility, you will be able to increase stability
Example: If the overhead position is difficult to achieve because you may not be able to align your hands over your shoulders and hips on an overhead press, your center of gravity may be thrown off. If that’s the case, you should work on freeing up the “tightness” in your lats, shoulders, and T-spine to allow your hands to move into the proper position. That way your mechanics are working to stabilize any weight directly above your shoulders and center of gravity during the movement to ensure that the weight is supported properly at the overhead position. Mobility then stability.
- 5-10 minutes of preventive and corrective exercises
1. If there are areas where you have experienced an injury or general weaknesses, this would be a good time to work on those specific areas. Just be aware to avoid fatigue the smaller muscles groups.
2. I like to use bands, small plates, light weights, and med balls to have a dedicated corrective/preventative exercise warm up.
- 5-10 minutes of empty barbell or light weight movement
1. If you are doing any barbell work or weighted/skill movements, use this time to progress up to the weight or movement you are going to perform.
Example: If you are trying to squat 135lb for 3 sets of 10, it would be ideal to warm up with the bar and then with some weighted sets in between. If you are doing burpees in the workout, do a few before jumping into the workout. Allow your body to adapt to the weight or skill being used. Listen to your body and if there is something that doesn’t feel right, fix or modify the movement.
Again, you can be as creative as you want to be with this warm-up template but the general rule of thumb is to start simple. You’ll be surprised how much your performance will improve by just adding 10-15 min of focused work before each workout. Use a test and retest method along the way to see if you feel the improvement before and after drills. If you don’t know how to test and retest, ask your coach to monitor you and your movement during warm-up process.
Remember to have fun, train hard and train smart!