Most people's warm up routine consists of a few random stretches of the calves, hamstrings, lower back and a few other key problem areas that they might have
They might do a slow jog or some star jumps to get the body warm and the blood flowing
But is this an effective warm up? Is this actually allowing you to perform better during your workouts?
Have a read of this short article and decide how effective your warm up routine is.
STATIC VS DYNAMIC STRETCHING
One big mistake with warm up routines that I see are that people focus too much on static stretching - an example of this is lazily holding a hamstring stretch for 1-2 minutes. Although this type of stretching before workouts can temporarily increase flexibility, it also decreases strength and power output which is not ideal for any activities that require your muscles to contract.
If you are looking to improve performance, you should instead be focusing on dynamic stretching. The difference here is that you are actually engaging your brain and muscles through repeated and quick movements.
Below is an example of dynamic stretching for the hamstrings and posterior leg muscles
PREPARING MUSCLES TO FIRE
A runner should feel great when he or she is running on the spot and doing a few stairs, just like someone who squats heavy loads should be easily able to do some light squats.
So after getting some more range of motion, we need to prepare the muscles to contract!
Missing this important step can lead to feelings of "sluggishness" and might even lead to increased risk of injury... most people can't go from 0 to 100 safely and consistently without a good warm up
One of our favourites for lower body activation is the slow reverse-lunge. Try a few each side for 3-5 sets. Your goal is to keep your weight on your front leg and maintain full control on the way down.
PREPARING THE WHOLE BODY TO FUNCTION
The final point I will touch on in terms of warm ups is to consider what you actually have to do during your workout. Are you trying to prepare your muscles to lift heavy weights (strength/power training), to produce lots of force quickly (such as sprinting), and in what range of motion?
Also consider the requirements of a runner versus a powerlifter during their sport - completely different, right? These two groups of people surely cannot have the same warm up routine if they want to perform at their best
These factors will determine what movement drills are most appropriate for you as you prepare for your workout
For runners, you should include some plyometric work such as box jumps or skipping in order to prepare your body to rapidly accept and produce force through your lower body.
If you're a powerlifter, your warm up should include some light squats which are focused on moving the bar as quickly as possible. This can include banded squats/deadlifts or box squats at <50% of your max.
I hope this challenged your thinking a little bit as you tweak your warm-up routine and perform better.
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About the Author:
Lawrence Khuu is a qualified Physiotherapist and Movement Specialist. His mission is to help motivated clients perform at their highest level through a combined hands-on treatment and exercise rehabilitation approach. He currently treats clients at Activ Therapy Casula.
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