Getting the most out of your warm up

What is it you are trying to achieve with your warm up routine? The answer is the obvious prepare yourself for the workout you have planned. That said why is that very often people either don’t do much if any warm up or if they do it is 5 minutes on the treadmill/bike/cross trainer which whist not worthless doesn’t really do much beyond the “warm you up” part of the what your warm up should be.
Preparation for tasks ahead
One of the main reasons for carrying out a warm up is to prepare your body for the session that you have planned be that in the gym or going out for a run. You want to both increase body temperature and carry out  movements that will prepare the areas that will be worked during the session. In terms of injury prevention this helps in the simplest terms you are getting yourself ready for the heavier loads that are coming up and is more important as we age. If you are in the gym and going to be doing squats you will want to carry out at least one movement that will help prepare you for the squatting that you are going to do. This doesn’t need to be heavy as it isn’t going to replace the warm up sets you will do but is designed to prepare the hips and legs for the work ahead perhaps using a greater range of movement, goblet squats, or by placing a bias towards one leg at a time, lateral lunges. If you are going out for a run a combination of normal and lateral lunges, ankle/lower limb work and glute bridges would be a great start before spending a few minutes at the start of the run working on technique.

Prehab is a bit of a nothing term as your program should be put togther in such a way that you are “prehabbing” all the time. That said your warm up  gives you a great opportunity to do work  on addressing movement limitations/restrictions that you may have. The limitations in our movement are rarely going to be resolved by stretching but by using the appropriate exercises we can really get the brain engaged in the process as it is often here the real limitations lie. You may have good ROM in passive movmnt or under light load but it shuts down when you place greater load into the equation.  In these cases our brain is simply  recognisingthat we can’t control a movement well, in that we don’t have enough strength to perform it, and as such limits how much movement we have access to. In other cases we may not “simply” be coordinating ourselves well throughout the body and the warm up can be a useful place to make use of exercises that allow us to work on these issues. We might not be bracing well through the “core” or extending well in the thoracic spine, relying on lumbar extension,  and again this can be worked on in the warm up such that once the load starts to increase we have already prepped oursleves for how it should feel and what to do.
Movement variety
Your warm up is also a great way to add variety to your training. For the most part we are likely to perform very similar movements, this is especially so when our training time is limited. In the gym we are likely to do some form of squat, pull, push, deadlift and don’t really get out of the saggital plane, where the motion occurs front to back, very much if at all. Given our limited training time this is to be expected but Including exercises that require us to work in the frontal, side to side, and transverse, rotational movement, planes in our warm ups allows us to add an extra dimension to our movement library and  increases our ability to comfortably move in many different directions. Which brings us on nicely to single limb training.
Single limb training
Some form of single limb training is a great addition to any training program but If you are pushed for time it really sits well in the warm up. The beauty of single limb movements, especially for the lower body, is that they don’t need to be heavy to get the benefit of performing them and as such sit are perfect for including in the warm up. They also have the added benefit of stressing the frontal and transverse planes even when you aren’t actually moving in them since you are working to prevent movement in those planes even when the exercise itself is apparently in the saggital plane.
To wrap it all up you would ideally want to try to cover all of the above in your warm ups and it isn’t as hard as you might think and it is quite simple to put together a short circuit that will prepare you for the workout ahead. Movements like lunges, press ups, band pull-a-parts, yoga poses can all be used and it with a little effort you can get a very effective and through warm up routine.

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