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Thursday, March 29, 2018

How to Efficiently Warm Up

Introduction:

Warming up prior to exercise is as old as time. However, warming up inadequately is a common phenomenon (no, 5 pull ups or 10 minutes on the treadmill to start your workout does not count as a good warm up). Specifically, many recreational athletes, high school athletes, clinicians, and other fitness programs have a lack of structure or specificity to their respective warm ups for themselves and/or clients. The following is sub-10 minute warm up that breaks down and addresses each of the key parts of the body's mechanical and neural systems to get you ready to move and function better. 

Breakdown: 

A proper and efficient warm up works best if you focus on the body parts and positions that you will be utilizing during the upcoming workout. The components of this warm up will include 1-2 exercises of each of the following categories: self-myofascial release/foam rolling, stretch, corrective exercise, activation, movement, and CNS prep. Total time: maximum of 10 minutes.

Self-myofascial release/foam rolling (SMR): It has been found that there are acute flexibility and performance gains from as little as a few minutes of foam rolling (Peacock et al., 2014). Additionally, there is also research that shows that foam rolling is not dose dependent, meaning that more is not necessarily better. So let's save some time and make this quick. Pick 3 body parts relevant to your workout and roll each/each side out for 30 sec. 

Stretch: I'd recommend that this be a dynamic stretch or something similiar like proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching that Joel has recently talked about with hamstrings here. There are many different variations of PNF stretching, personally I think the contract-relax method (contract the muscle being stretched and then relax and sink deeper into a stretch) can be easily and quickly translated to many different body parts without the use of a partner. Today's science and research has been leaving static stretching in the dust so it seems, so let's leave it there. Pick 1 dynamic or PNF stretch relevant to your workout and do it for 5 contractions with a 15 second hold after each contraction.

Corrective Exercise (CE): If you're like me, you'll say that you'll just do your much needed corrective exercises (exercises to fix bad habits and movement patterns aka prehab exercises) before bed or during some other down time during the day... and it never happens. So I started to incorporate 1-2 of these exercises in my warm up. "Becoming a Supple Leopard" by Kelly Starrett is a great resource to find variations for your problem areas. I incorporate 1 exercise of a problem area of mine, usually hip internal rotation and 1 exercise specific to my movement patterns for the day. Examples: side-lying T-spine rotations, side-lying clamshells, and banded ankle patterns. 2 sets of each exercise; 8-10 reps. 

Activation: Here we are, back to the under-appreciated activation patterns of the body. Here we will perform an exercise to wake up the 'mind-muscle' connection. For lower body dominant workouts, I like to go with bird-dogs or banded glute bridges. For upper body workouts: straight-arm banded pull downs, single-arm planks, alternating shoulder touches in a high plank position, etc. Perform 2 sets of 10 (each side if an alternating exercise). If you missed my article on muscle activation and it's importance on movement, check it out here.

Movement (Mvmt): This is where we incorporate some resistance into the warm up. These exercises should/could include a light barbell/kettlebell and/or bodyweight resistance, etc. keeping it specific to the movement pattern of the day. Lower body focus examples: bodyweight/kettlebell squat, lateral lunges, overhead squat (personal favorite), etc. Upper body examples: push ups, pull/chin ups, inverted rows, etc. These movements help to increase the blood flow to the muscles and facilitate correct movement patterns, further prepping you for your workout. Pick 1-2 exercises; 2 sets of 8-10 with minimal to no rest. 

CNS Prep: If you haven't been woken up yet, don't worry this next exercise will do it for you. Plyometric training has been considered an activator of the central nervous system (CNS) similar to power training and beneficial to performance when used as a warm up (Masamoto et al., 2003). Statistically significant performance benefits were seen with minimal repetitions, specifically 2 depth jumps or 3 double leg tuck jumps. Examples of plyometrics that could be used here: broad jump, vertical jump, squat jumps, tuck jumps, depth drops, kettlebell swings, etc. Perform 1 set of 3 reps. 

Performing all of these exercises as a fluid circuit with minimal rest will give you the increased heart rate, blood flow, and muscle activation you need to carry into the actual workout. Slight modifications may be made such as adding an upper and lower body variation of each category if you are doing a full-body workout. Below I have posted a sample of what I do for my warm-up. 

Olympic Lift focused Warm Up:
SMR: T-spine, Lats, Pecs; 30 sec/muscle each side
Stretch: Internal Rot.; PNF 5 second contraction, 15 sec stretch x5
CE: Side-lying hip IR & Side-lying T-Spine Rotation; 2x8ea
Activation: Bird dogs; 2x8ea 
Mvmt: Overhead Barbell Squat; 2x8- light weight, form focused
CNS: 3 Tuck Jumps

Lower Body Warm Up:
SMR: Quads, Hamstrings, Adductors; 30 sec/muscle each side
Stretch: Quads, Hamstrings; PNF/Dynamic Stretch
CE: SL RDL + Hip ER ; 2x8ea
Mvmt: Kettlebell Goblet Squat 2x8
CNS: Alternating Split Squat Jumps 1x3ea

Upper Body Warm Up:
SMR: Trigger Point Upper Trap (Tennis Ball), Lats, Pecs; 30 sec/muscle each side
Stretch: Doorway/Wall Pec Stretch; PNF
CE: Quadruped T-spine Rotation, 
Mvmt: Pull Ups, 2x3-5; Push Ups, 2x8-10

References: 

Masamoto, N., Larson, R., Gates, T., & Faigenbaum, A. (2003). Acute effects of plyometric exercise on maximum squat performance in male athletes. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research17(1), 68-71

Peacock, C., Krein, D., Silver, T., Sanders, G., Von Carlowitz, K. (2014) An acute bout of self-myofascial release in the form of foam rolling improves performance testingInternational Journal of Exercise Science, 7(3):202-211.

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