People often skip warm up to save time and just get into their workout. The problem with that is they increase the risk of injury by doing so, and reduce the quality of their workout, and the results they obtain from their workout.
Benefits of a good warm up:
- Warm up prepares the body for what is to come. It gradually increases your heart rate, loosens up the joints, ligaments, and tendons, warms up the muscles and gives the brain time to determine what are the right signals to send to all the moving parts for maximum effort and results, safely. The keyword here being safely.
- Because all the moving parts will be moving correctly, fluidly and thoroughly, you will be able to achieve the following in the workout proceeding the warmup:
- Activate the right muscles for the workout
- Burn maximum energy for reduced effort.
- Go faster if speed is a factor
- Increase your power if power is required
- Increase your strength
- Last longer, so improve your muscular and cardiovascular fitness and endurance
- Recover better
- Build more muscle
- Reduce risk of injury
- Improve your body’s tone and muscle sculpt, faster and more completely
What a good warm up looks like:
- Set aside around 10-15 minutes before your workout for your preparation warm up before proceeding into the activation part of your warmup.
- Yes, you will need to extend the time you set aside for activity, but it means you will get more bang for buck and do safely so that you can continue to workout well into your golden years.
Start with release exercises (5-10 mins):
- Release exercises are exercises using tools such as spikey balls and foam rollers to release tension in muscles and the fascia of muscles.
- Fascia is what encases muscles to keep the fibres together. Very similar to the skin on a sausage; without the skin the sausage meat would simply fall apart. Fascia does the same thing for the muscle fibres.
- By rolling the muscle and the fascia with these tools they ‘iron out’ any knots, tightness or areas of built-up lactic acid.
- Lactic acid is the by-product of energy expenditure.
- When you exercise your body burns energy (glycogen and fat) to give the muscles the fuel to be able to move. Much like petrol in a car.
- Just as carbon-monoxide is the by-product of petrol, so is lactic acid to glycogen and fat.
- When the muscles release lactic acid, it enters the blood stream and is passed to the lymphatic system, liver and kidnies to be cleaned out and excreted through your skin (sweat), stools and urine.
- When you workout extra hard, excess lactic acid is produced, and this detox process can’t keep up with production. As a result you tend to have an accumulation between the muscle fibres.
- This build up is responsible for D.OM.S. (delayed onset muscle soreness). This is the pain you feel over the next couple of days post workout. That’s why the more you move, the faster that washes away; it is released into the blood and excreted.
- One of the ways to facilitate this detoxification is to release muscles and fascia before and after exercise. Before, to break down and release any lactic acid still sitting between muscle fibres that might reduce their function in the workout you are about to conduct. And after, to help detox after your workout and reduce the pain you will feel over the next couple of days.
- Releasing also helps increase your heart rate, and therefore your blood flow. This increase starts to warm up the muscles, ligaments and tendons.
- The warmer the muscles, ligaments and tendons the easier they are to stretch. Think about an elastic band in room temperature versus one that has been placed in the freezer. The one from the freezer will more than likely snap if you try to stretch it.
Move to stretching (5 mins):
- Once you have released everything you can move into stretching.
- Completing a good stretch sequence for all the areas you are going to workout is vital to prepare your joints for what’s to come.
- If you go into movement without stretching the soft tissue around your joints, that is, the fascia, ligaments and tendons, you run the risk of tearing or snapping them.
- By not stretching you might save yourself 5 minutes, but you run the risk of losing days, weeks, months or even years of recovery if you tear a fascia, ligament or tendon. And sometimes, you may never make a complete recovery.
- Short term sacrifice for long term gains.
- When moving into a stretch, always hold the stretch at a safe distance; don’t over-stretch.
- Unlock joints so as not to put pressure on the hinge. Think about a door hinge being pushed too far.
- You want to stretch the soft tissue, the ligaments, tendons, and fascia of the muscles, not the hinge part of the joint.
- Hold stretches for 15-20 seconds each.
Proceed to activation exercises (5 mins):
- Activation exercises are exercises that prepare the muscles for movement.
- As the word says, they ‘activate’ the muscles.
- If you go through an appropriate activation sequence for your workout, you will activate the right muscles to get the most out of your workout.
- Otherwise, your brain might be signalling the wrong muscles to take on the load.
- For example, a common problem we PTs see is, if you do not activate your Quads, Glute Max and Glute Medius muscles for squats, your brain will signal to your lumbar and Hamstrings to take on the load. These are the wrong muscles for this particular job.
- This is why you often get people that have super tight Hamstrings and lower back, preventing them from being able to touch their toes, and often leading to lower back pain.
- If you are not sure what a suitable activation sequence is, reach out to your PT or shoot us a message and we can help.
- Activation exercises need to be personally tailored after a structural balance assessment, so you know exactly which of your muscles are not working and which are over working. This will vary from person to person.
Commence your workout with warm up sets:
- A good training program consists of ‘warm up sets’ and ‘working sets’. This will look different depending on whether you are doing strength training, a HIIT workout, cardio etc.
- Your warmup sets prepare your body for the load to come.
- They increase your heart rate, body temperature and blood flow, to ensure the right amount of fuel is being pumped to the muscles.
- This signals to the brain to also secrete the hormones cortisol and adrenaline to assist the body in having enough power to be able to proceed with what is to come.
Warm up sets for Strength Training:
- 1-3 sets of your first couple of exercises at 50% of your usual working load. So for example, if you are squatting 70kg, you might start off with about 30-35kg and gradually increase over 1-3 sets til you are at your working weight.
- Before you start squatting your 70kg for the prescribed number of reps, do 1-2 reps at the 70kg mark then rest for 60-90 seconds before commencing your ‘working sets’.
- This gradual increase allows the brain to fire up enough motor neurons in the muscles to perform the lift. Think about your car being able to move faster the further you press your accelerator.
- Have you ever gone to pick up a box thinking it is super heavy and when you pick it up, almost flung it across the room? This is because when you thought it was heavy, your brain sent signals to the muscle to fire up a ton of motor neurons, which weren’t actually required, so you exerted extra energy and flung the box.
- On the flip side, have you ever gone to pick up a box thinking it would be light and when you went to lift it, it didn’t budge? But then you try again, and you lift it? This is because the brain thought it was light, so didn’t recruit enough motor neurons in the muscles. When you went to lift it the second time, your brain knew the weight of the box and recruited more motor neurons, so you were able to lift it.
- Once you have completed 1-2 reps of your working load then you can proceed with your working sets.
Warm up for Cardio Training:
- Whether you are running, boxing, cycling, power walking etc. start off slow, and gradually build up to your working speed.
- Running – Start off with a super slow jog, before gradually speeding up.
- Boxing – Start off shadow boxing, running through your punches before moving into some pad or bag work.
- Cycling – Start off in a lower gear, on flatter surface before increasing your gears, gradually move to incline and speed.
- Power Walking – Start off with a stroll and gradually build up speed.
Warm up for HIIT Training:
- This is how we run our classes.
- Start off with a very light jog or marching on the spot before proceeding to some joint mobility; rolling of the ankles, moving on the knees, hips, back, and shoulders, whilst keeping moving slowly.
- Once you have completed joint mobility gradually build up the heart rate with some jogging on the spot, then start some light movement replicating the movements that are to come in the workout.
- As you move through these replication exercises, gradually build up the speed, power and depth of movement, before proceeding with your HIIT workout.
So as much as a warmup might appear to be a drainer when you are time poor, the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of time.
Don’t look at a warmup as an addition to your workout. Instead, accept it as part of your warmup, and it will cease to be such a drainer.
Try it for a week and take note of the benefits in your training ability and your results.
- Coach Terri