28 September 2016
Neglected. Taken for granted. Or conducted sub-optimally, without purpose. Do you know how to prime your body for movement and prepare it for intense activity? I don't want to waste time talking about what most people do; I want to ensure that you are doing what you need to do to train safe and stay injury-free.
The goal of a warm-up is multi-tiered and involves:
1. Raising muscle temperature
2. Increased blood flow to the muscles
3. Lubricating the joints
4. Preparing the connective tissue
5. Neural activation
Skipping the warm-up and jumping right into exercise is careless and an open invitation to strained muscles and tendons, and sprained ligaments. At the least, you will suffer shortened range of motion, subpar performance, and also decrease the effectiveness of your training over time. Conversely, an appropriate warm-up will prepare the body to perform at its best and sustain muscle and connective tissue longevity (Hertling and Kessler 1996).
Below outlines a purposeful warm-up:
1. Limber Up
Use joint rotations, starting with either the fingers or toes. Make slow circular movements until the joint moves smoothly, as you progress up the line to the next joint working distal to proximal (fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck, twisting bending torso, hips, knees, ankles, toes). If you start from the toes reverse the order; the goal being to end on the portion of the body that will be stressed most during the training.
2. Light Activity
Engage in five minutes of aerobic activity to get the blood flowing and warm the muscle-belly. This can be performed on a machine like a rower, air dyne, or versa-climber. Other methods involve swinging a light kettle bell, shadow boxing, or jumping rope.
3. Dynamic Stretching
The goal here is to increase range of motion through active elongation. Dynamic stretches can be as simple as arm swings (5-8 reps) and leg swings (10-12 reps) for as many sets as needed to reach maximum range of motion in any given direction. More advanced routines and specific dynamic stretches can be learned by researching "Movement Prep."
4. Specific Activity
Finish priming the body by conducting movements similar to the training that will be performed. This involves light pulls, squats, presses, etc that mimic the movement patterns you will use during your training.
The entire warm-up can be as long as 30 minutes or as short as five-ten minutes depending on your level of ability and body awareness. The former generally reserved for individuals new to training, or athletes preparing for intense activity or heavy resistance training.
Be smart, invest your time in taking care of yourself. You will reap the benefit of staying in the game longer and avoid the frustration of potential injury.