Gone are the days of a 5 minute jog on the treadmill for your warm up. This non specific method genuinely doesn’t do much more to prepare you for your training other than literally ‘warm you up’.
First off – Why do we warm up?
To optimally prepare for the training session/competition at hand, increasing performance and therefore reducing injury potential.
Looking around the gym and watching people training with terrible posture, awful mobility issues and shocking form, this is a massive point of concern which needs addressing ASAP for the majority of gym goers.
A modern day warm up should be 2 things:
Specific to the individuals postural weaknesses and tightness (assessed through some form of movement screen)
Specific to the activity of the specific session.
You can probably guess that the 5 minute treadmill jog is neither specific to the individual or good preparation for a programmed training session.
So what to do?
Mobilise: Increasing range of motion (ROM) at specific joints through 3 different methods. These joints should be those in need of improved ROM (assessed prior to session) and those specific to the activity (i.e. mobilise the hips before squatting).
Self myofacial release (foam rolling etc.) increases the pliability of the tissue by breaking down the knots.
Dynamic stretching takes the joint through a large ROM without too much tension, this increases the pliability of the tissue and also increases blood flow and temperature.
Static stretching takes the muscle to its end range of motion and keeps it there, after a short time the muscle relaxes and ROM is increased.
Activate: Basically low level strength training. Using light often isolated exercises to increase the mind muscle connection to a specific muscle essentially ‘activating’ it (i.e. isometric bridge for gluteal activation before a squat session). Again these muscles are specific to the individuals postural weakness and the session at hand.
Preparation: Prepare for the activity at hand. Try several warm up sets before lifting to get the entire body in sync (activated bits working alongside newly mobilised bits).
Dependent on the activity, potentiation may be useful. this is essentially exciting the central nervous system, getting it to fire optimally. Always recommended before competition for increases in rate of force development (power & speed) or if lifting heavy weights (>85% 1RM).
An example of the above before a lower body strength training session (for someone with no significant tightness or weakness) with back squats as the core exercise:
Self myofacial release – Hip flexor, IT band, adductors, piriformis.
Dynamic stretch – Hips, lower back, thoracic spine, chest.
Static stretch – Hip flexor, chest.
Gluteal muscle activation.
Several warm up sets of back squat working up to the designated working weight.
Try these methods the next time you warm up for your training session and I’m sue you will reap the rewards during an awesome session and after when recovery is important.