A warm up is not about getting warm. Looking around you when you come in to train you will notice that a typical gym bunny ‘warm up’ consists of a couple of light weight sets of the exercise they are about to do, then pile on the weight and go for glory.
Third Space Elite Trainer and expert in biomechanics Luke Worthington gets a little hot under the collar explaining the importance of an effective warm up.
If you’re lucky you may see someone do a few minutes on a cross trainer or a rower then one or two static stretches or swings of their limbs. They may be warm – yes, but are they prepared for the movements they are about to undertake – absolutely not.
The purpose of this article is to change the emphasis of a ‘warm up’ from simply getting warm on a frosty morning, to being adequately prepared for a training session. By following some of these pointers you should see a marked improvement in how you move and feel, your performance in the gym, and most importantly reducing your risk of injury. From a typical gym session of 1 hour, you should spend at least 15 minutes of that on your warm ups.
The most important consideration when designing your warm up is that strength training cements movement patterns. Therefore if you have a faulty or dysfunctional movement – then performing it under load for sets and reps will make it very hard to ‘un learn’. Your warm up, therefore, should be about getting into the most optimal position available to you at that time and then beginning to work under load.
I like to break a warm up into four distinct sections:
Foam rolling or other myofascial work to reduce sympathetic tone and improve tissue quality.
The most simple way to look at this is ‘reverse posture’. Have you just been sat hunched over a keyboard for 8 hours? In which case consider thoracic extensions. Have you just run to the gym or been on your feet all day? In which case think of core activation work and specific hip mobility.
This is about getting you as close to a ‘neutral’ posture as you can get on that particular day. Your re-set drills will be specific to you and are things you should see progressions with from session to session.
What movements are you about to perform in the gym?
Overhead pressing – then think of scapular stabilisation and shoulder mobility.
Squatting – then consider ankle mobility, glute activation and hip flexor mobility.
This portion of your warm up will be specific to your work out. If you are unsure then I recommend working ‘toe to head’ through your body segments – each adjacent segment should be either mobile or stable i.e.
Feet – stable
Ankle – Mobile
Knee – Stable
Hip – Mobile
Lumbar spine – Stable
Thoracic spine – Mobile
Scapular – stable
Shoulder – Mobile
This is really your transition from your warm up to the workout. Reactive work is prepping your central nervous system (CNS) and getting it fired up to do some work. Examples of reactive work for the lower body are skipping, hopping and bounding drills. For the upper body – medicine ball throws, slams and stomps. For the supermen (and women) out there this is where your box jumps and clap push-ups should fit in to your session.
Remember – a warm is not about getting warm – it is about getting your body in the optimal position to cope with the demands you are about to place on it.