Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More than just a warm up

Ok, I've been slacking with this whole "blog" thing. Time to get back on track.

The first issue I want to talk about is dynamic warm ups. I've been asked by a couple of people how to "correctly" warm up. Anyone can walk out on the gym floor and hit the treadmill up for 5 minutes. Sure, that will increase your body temp and get some blood flowing, but will it get you ready for your lifts?

No. It's pretty useless in my opinion.

I always start my clients out with some foam rolling. If you don't know what this is, don't worry - you aren't the only one. It has been around for a while, but only over the course of the last couple of years is it finally getting the recognition it deserves. If you don't have one, buy one. If you have one, use it.. . because I know you aren't using it as much as you should.

It hurts. But - it's a good hurt. Basically, what a foam roller does is decrease tissue density. It allows for the breakdown of scar tissue and adhesions that can occur in the fascia over time.

What does this mean to you? Well, depending on the quality of your tissues, it can mean a lot. I have seen knee pain disappear with the addition of foam rolling into a warm up, and the risk is injury is lessened as foam rolling tricks your muscles into allowing a more full range of motion while you are exercising. Now, it doesn't happen overnight, but there hasn't been a program I've written up in the last 3 years that hasn't started with foam rolling.

My advice is to begin with rolling your;

Quads (front of legs)
IT Band (side of legs - you know you hit it when it feels like hot needles. Don't worry, it get's better with practice)
TFL (small muscle right in front of your hip bone)
Mid Back
Adductors (inside of your legs)
Glutes (butt)
Lats (long muscles under your arms, that run laterally down to your ribs)

Next - mobilize the joints in your body. Another thing I hate about treadmills is that they are so linear. You walk in a straight line. Now, if you are warming up for an intense power walking session, then sure, walking is great. Our hips are a very complex joint providing a center where our upper bodies meet our lower. They are responsible for a multitude of movements. So, warm them up that way. I tend to always warm up in accordance to the workout I will be doing that day. So, if I am squatting or deadlifting, I start at my ankles and move my way up, spending a bit more time on the areas I am concentrating on that day. This is typically my general warm up.

I start out with my static stretching. I know, you have been led to believe that static stretching before exercise is bad.. but recent studies have actually shown it to be beneficial. I like to do it before my dynamic warm up.

Chest Stretch - Find a doorway. Bring your elbows up to a 90 degree angle against the frame (think getting arrested) now press your chest forward through the frame. Hold that for 30 seconds.
Hip flexor stretch - Get into a kneeling position. Bring one leg forward so that you are in a half kneel position. Keeping your upper body tall, lean forward with your hips, elongating that back leg. Squeeze your glute on that side and feel that stretch on the inside of your back leg.

Now, for mobility. I have stolen these over the years from multiple sources - I just took the ones that I felt were the best.

#1 - Ankle mobility drill - Notice how he is going in multiple directions here. Don't force the range of motion, the more you do this, the better you will get at it.


#1 - Split stance adductor mobilizations - now these start to work your hips through a natural range. .. even though it wont feel natural at the beginning as you have probably lost this movement over time.


#2 - Half kneel adductor dips - I also like these to promote a greater range of motion through the groin.


#3 - Scapular wall slide - This is one of my favorite upper body mobility drills. It looks very basic, but does the trick, especially if your job requires you to lean forward over a computer, or drive constantly.


These are very basic, as I didn't really want to write a novel, but I hope you begin to understand that hoping on the treadmill for a warm up isn't going to do anything for your performance, and may even hinder you or cause an injury.

If you have any questions, you know where to find me.

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