You may have heard it before if you have ever had a trainer, or if you were ever and athlete on a team with a coach. You show up to train, and they look at you and say, “Go warm up!” You probably look back with this blank stare and think why? Why do I have to warm up, coach? I am warm, I walked here didn’t I? I took a hot shower this morning. Why do I need to warm up? I am going to tell you exactly why you need to warm up. I am going to use some specific reasons that I was taught by my coach when I was going through my internship here at NBS. I am also going to provide several 3 to 5 minute videos that were created by our very own David Allen that take you step by step through some general and specific warm ups.
First of all, how well you warm up will probably determine how well your entire training session goes. This is a short period of time that you will use to transition from non-activity to activity. They’re are many purposes to a warm up, and I am going to discuss a few that I was taught.
- The first reason to warm up is to increase the internal temperature of our body. Heat is a catalyst for reactions to occur, and when we are in the gym moving heavy weights, or performing any type of intense physical exercise, there are many reactions taking place within our bodies.
- We want to increase the fluid dynamics exchange taking place within our bodies. Essentially, we want to try to get our blood flowing, so it can carry nutrients and excrete waste in an efficient manner.
- The third reason is to increase acute flexibility and mobility. We want to be able to move through an adequate range of motion specific for our sport, or activity that we will be performing. Too little can hinder our performance, just as too much can hinder performance in certain situations.
- The fourth reason is to improve our tissue quality. If for one reason or another we have poor tissue quality, this could limit the actions of the actin, myosin cross bridges, which could, as a result, decrease the overall force production of our muscles. I’m not going to get into the extremely detailed actin, myosin cross bridge theory, but essentially this is what causes our muscles to contract and relax.
- We also want to increase our neural output and help to “prime” our movement patterns. What we are doing here is increasing our nervous systems ability to coordinate muscular contractions.
- The last and final reason is to increase and stimulate our mental readiness. We don’t want to start an intense training session while being half asleep. Perhaps you would be better off to choose a specific warm up to wake up your mind and muscles, rather than reaching for that pre-workout with 400mg of caffeine per scoop, taking the risk of a heart attack in the middle of your session.
Now that we have the reason and purpose for warming up, the next question is how do we go about doing this, and in what order? There are about 5 points to take away with the process of warming up. Here they are:
- Start with some general, dynamic movement. Basically start moving, this can be done joint by joint, think about starting at your neck and working your way down to your ankles. This is how we have most of our clients warm up at NBS. Think about stretching the muscle in a way that is not static, meaning holding in a position without movement. Instead, warm up by using dynamic stretches such as walking lunges, split squats, etc.
- Tissue work. This can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or any type of trigger point device. Just don’t do this for an extended period of time; that may be a bit overkill.
- Next up, is specific mobilization. Specific Mobilization is when you do some movements to mobilize specific joints that you may be using in your workout, whether they be static, or dynamic. An example is hip circles for hip joint if you’re going to be squatting (dynamic). Static squat holds if you’re going to squat.
- Additionally, activation is important. This means activating specific muscle groups that you may be using in your routine. This is a process specifically targeted at muscle contractions. An example would be to activate glutes, hamstrings, etc. if you’re going to squat, or deadlift.
- The last is specific dynamic work. This one is pretty simple. If you’re going to squat, then just do some bodyweight squats. If you’re going to deadlift, then just do some bodyweight RDL’s, or with a band around your neck and feet.
Remember, a warm up can be overdone. If you are doing soft tissue work, think about it like this. Do you know anyone that goes to get a 1 hour full body massage, then goes to the gym to go beast mode? I sure hope not. The first thing I want to do after I get a massage is go straight to sleep. You want to activate muscles, and stimulate neural output, but not to the point that you just want to take a nap, and you lose the ability to produce a quality muscular contraction. Don’t over do it, but also don’t be that guy that comes in to bench and just goes one plate, two plates, three plates, and call that a warm up. I can guarantee you that if that is you, then you will more than likely be facing problems in the future like a torn pec, rotator cuff, or even a tricep tendon.
Take the time to set aside 5 to 10 minutes before every training session, and I’m sure your future-self will thank you, as well as your trainer, or coach. Now, we have the reasons for warming up, as well as what order, and how to perform each warm up. I will finish this up by sharing some warm up videos that our owner has put together and posted on our YouTube channel. There is an incredible amount of content within our YouTube channel, and I would advise you to go and check it out for even more information on warm ups, as well as many other tips for training, nutrition, and other advice.