Do you warm up correctly?
Do you skip your warm up or even worse, jump on the treadmill for 10 minutes to get the ‘heart rate going’?
It’s boring and I know you’re in a rush, but warming up correctly will help improve your performance and decrease the chances of picking up injuries in the gym. Spending 10 minutes warming up can save you months of rehabilitating a sore shoulder or dodgy knee.
‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail’
It’s normal for people to confuse warming up with getting ‘warm’. It is definitely one of the goals of the warm up but it should be so much more than just breaking a sweat and feeling warm. I have had clients come into the Gym and say:
‘Ah I’m warm, I walked here from work’ –Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it I’m afraid.
Warming up the body should do a number of things including; get your body ‘firing on all cylinders’, raise your metabolic rate and lubricate the joints. Raising your body temperature will also reduce the risk of straining a muscle, ligament or tendon.
Warming up, if done properly will also prepare the nerves that ‘innervate’ or power the muscle and prepare the muscle to be contracted forcefully by increasing the receptivity of the muscle cell to a signal. This sensitivity means the muscles/nerve connection will be enhanced and have a greater ability to fire faster impulses to the cell resulting in stronger contractions.
There is also a structure in the junction between the muscle and a tendon called the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO). It basically tells the muscle when there is too much strain on it and will stop any excessively forceful contractions. I.e. If you are cold and haven’t warmed up the muscle/tendon junction then your body will not let you tense the muscle fully to try prevent injury and you will be weaker.
If this structure detects that it is warm, the result is an almost instant strength increase J because it isn’t inhibiting the muscle. Problem is; just increasing body temperature is not much use in warming up the GTO. You need to warm up that range of motion that you are about to put the muscle through and apply some stress to get it going.
So we now know that we are not just doing a general warm up and the reason of the warm up is to get the core temperature of the working muscle up, but it is also to ensure the nerves are firing to the muscle too. How do you implement this into your training sessions?
So What Should I Do First?
A warm up should be based around mainly dynamic body-weight exercises and mobility work. In the ABS Gym the basic warm up will include the following exercises.
Fix your hips video – Diesel Strength & Conditioning
These exercises are performed no matter what type of training session a client is about to do regardless if it’s lower-body or upper-body. Executing these exercises in this order will create the effect needed to raise the body temperature. Try it if you don’t believe me. (You can use a towel instead of a band)
What’s the difference between flexibility and mobility?
The two are similar as they help with improving range of motion. They both aim to improve your range of motion and both will help you get in to the correct position to perform exercises correctly.
Mobility is performing a certain range of motion with a body part that doesn’t need an aid. For example: actively swinging your leg out to the front whilst keeping it straight would be classed as hamstring mobility, lying on your back whilst pulling your leg back towards you using a band, rope or the help of another person would be hamstring flexibility because it was passively brought through that range of motion.
Long story short, flexibility is passively attaining a certain body position. Mobility is actively being able to get your body part into a certain body position and be able to move through the range of motion with no external help.
What else can I do to warm up?
If you’re strength training then I would look to keep all your repetitions in the lower range when warming up. By performing higher reps you will release lactic acid in your blood which will then hinder the activation of high threshold motor units. This is something you don’t want if you’re about to lift heavy things.
Increase the weight through your warm up and then decrease the reps. For example if you were , benching, squatting or deadlifting then you should perform the general warm up then perform 4-5 warm up sets consisting of 2-3 reps with the weight increasing gradually as you build up to your actual working sets. If my first working set was 140 x 2 then my warm up sets would look something like this.
6-8 Reps x Barbell / Warm Up Set 1
5 Reps x 40kg / Warm Up Set 2
4 Reps x 70kg / Warm Up Set 3
3 Reps x 100kg / Warm Up Set 4
2 x 120Kg / Warm Up Set 5
This is a rough guide of what a warm up would look like for a heavy compound lift (squat, bench press, deadlift etc.). I would do this for most exercises. By performing plenty of warm up sets you’re giving your nervous system the chance to prepare and get ready for the heavier lifts and weight. It’s similar to a person leaving a dark room then suddenly walking in to the sunlight. You need to gradually adapt before jumping straight in to the heavier lifts.
With isolation exercises and lighter exercises such as a lat pull-down or a bicep curls this type of warm up is not necessary. One warm up set at about 65%-70% of the working weight is usually fine depending on the training/ injury history of the person.
Stretching pre workout is normally a bad idea unless you have to do it to allow yourself to get in to the correct position to perform you exercises.
For example many of my personal training clients suffer from tight hamstrings caused from sitting down all day. I’d allow them to stretch them before training as this allows them to adopt a better posture for exercises such as the deadlift and squat.
One of the reasons you shouldn’t stretch pre workout is that it temporarily weakens muscle by activating the Golgi Tendon Organ that I talked about earlier. Stretching post workout or on a non training days whilst including foam rolling and soft tissue work is my preferred and recommended option.
Foam rolling and soft tissue work can also be done pre-workout and post-workout with your warm up and cool down as it will increase blood flow to the area.
The ABS Gym Personal Training Studio Dublin / Sports Surgery Clinic Santry