By Tiffany Smith.
You show up to the gym, check in, maybe go to the locker room, put your things in a locker, meet your trainer and 9 times out of 10 their first question is “Did you warm up?” If it’s not, then let’s hope they are taking you through a warm up and perhaps explaining why this is important.
For those of you that haven’t had this information given to you or maybe are still under estimating the importance of a warm up, that is exactly what I am going to share with you! There are all different kinds of ways to warm up and depending on your fitness level and goals. Some basic principles of a warm up should include but are not limited to; challenging the body’s energy systems to improve your ability to intake more oxygen during your workouts and muscle activation/dynamic movement. Coming from an injury prevention view we must always think consciously about the importance of fluid mobility during every session. Connecting and understanding your body does wonders for adapting the body in a healthy way.
No matter what fitness level you are currently in, challenging your cardiovascular systems will make a huge difference in your performance during your workout. The goal here is to challenge your heart using different energy systems to produce a demand for more oxygen consumption. The more oxygen our bodies can intake the more fat we can use for energy during our workout. Keeping that in mind, we want to moderately increase our heart rates up into zone 4 and keeping this cardio warm up around 10 minutes or so. Also, it is ideal to use a piece of cardio equipment that challenges the same muscle groups you will be working or mimics a movement you want to become more efficient at. i.e. If you are doing an upper body focus, the rower may be a good idea; and for a lower body focus, running or the stairmill are both good options. Blood flow will increase to those muscles in turn allowing glucose and fatty acids to be used as energy. This will also stimulate our mind body connection to understand if something feels “off” in our movement.
Which brings us into our next step; muscle activation/dynamic movement. When you are going through your cardio portion of your warm up that is the time to think about how your joints are feeling, do you feel tight?, weak?, strong?, are you having any pain?, can you feel the muscles working that you want to work? etc. As always, creating mobility and optimal movement in our joints allows for elite muscle response. Specific muscle activation can be beneficial when someone is recovering from an injury or to help correct muscle imbalances. This is very tough to do on your own since we cannot always understand what our bodies are doing as a movement habit or pattern. Utilizing dynamic movement to gain full range of motion at this time will help prepare your body for more control and forceful movement. Every body needs different movement prep based on goals, injuries, and current mechanics. However, base line ideas can start with ankle and hip mobility, thoracic movement, and shoulder mobility. Dynamic movements can also be thought of as going through a motion and using the opposite muscle of the prim mover to add in a small “stretch”. i.e. Doing a lunge while contracting the glute of the back leg to stretch the hip flexor. Keep in mind the object is not to over stretch the body, we are trying to simple improve function.
Clearly there is more to that annoying warm up you tend to neglect. Remember why you want to get back into the gym, to be healthy! Taking each and every step patiently will do more for you than just going straight into your lifting habits. Increase your heart rate and prepare your body. The first step is always getting there, the next step should always be to be efficient with your time there and smart about how you are getting to your goals! Understanding your body never felt so good!