A lot of people like to get exercise over with or they just want to get straight to the fun part like the big lifts. However, failing to do proper warm-ups can be seriously detrimental if not dangerous for anyone. Warming up before any type of workout is essential and should be done before EVERY workout.
Benefits of Warming Up:
1. Increases heart rate (prevents cardiac problems)
2. Increases temperature
3. Increases blood flow (increasing nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles and joints)
4. Prepares muscles and cardiovascular system
5. Increases nerve transmission (increases coordination and fluid motion)
6. Increases Viscosity and elasticity of muscles, tendons and ligaments
7. Better performance
8. Less injuries
So now that you know that it's good for you, what is the best way to warm-up? While walking on a treadmill would be better than nothing, there are definitely far better options for a great warm up. First of all, DO NOT stretch before you warm up or use only stretches as your warm-up. Doing so can actually limit your performance and increase your risk of injury. Only stretch AFTER your workout.
There are many exercises you can do in your warm-up that increase mobility of commonly problematic areas such as hip, ankle and spine. Also, there are exercises that function as stabilizer muscle strengtheners that will protect you from injury and help you lift more. The following can be used as a warm-up before any workout or as a supplementary workout for fixing imbalances on a rest day. You should perform all the exercises at 1-3 times (in a circuit or each separately) before a full body workout or cardio or just pick the upper body or lower body exercises if you have a split routine.
SAMPLE DYNAMIC WARMUP/REHAB WORKOUT
1. Arm circles and body hugs:
-Reason: rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common injuries in the gym. Most people fail to properly strengthen these small muscles and go straight to heavy lifting. This almost always results in injured shoulders that can be difficult to fix. ALWAYS take a few minutes to warm up these muscles before you lift.
-Action: simply stand and make circles with your arms bigger to smaller and then smaller to bigger. Repeat a few times. Then swing your arms out and then hug yourself alternating which arm is on top of the other a few times.
2. Wall slide:
-reason: similar to reason above, small muscles must be strengthened and functional before graduating to big lifts. Walls slides are simple but amazing exercise that helps scapular retraction which is necessary for proper form and injury prevention. Before any upper body lift, it's essential to have your shoulders back and down (retraction), to reduce impingement.
-action: stand with your back flat against a wall with the back of your arms and hands in contact with the wall. Now slowly move your arms along the wall until you're hands are above your head. Slide back to starting position and repeat for 15 reps. Make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades and keep forearms in constant contact with the wall.
3. Band Pull Aparts:
-reason: again, shoulder health is paramount to a long life in the gym. Band pull aparts are excellent for strengthening rotator cuffs and stabilizing the shoulder joint. They also help tone all the muscles of the upper back (rhomboids, upper and lower traps, terres major, posterior delts).
-action: hold an exercise band straight out in front of you at shoulder level and pull back slowly till the band is at your chest. Focus on keeping your shoulders down and retracting your shoulder blades and squeezing them together. Repeat for 15 reps.
4. T-spine mobility:
-reason: a lot of people donâ€™t have great spinal mobility. This can cause poor form in lifting and subsequent pain and injuries. Sitting too much, especially slumped over computers, can be partially to blame for poor mobility here. Poor spinal mobility often causes the lower back to get over worked causing pain there. Shoulder blades can take over as well by moving away from the spine resulting in rotator cuff injuries. Besides less lower back pain and healthier shoulders, better spinal mobility means more lung volume and greater range of motion thereby improving performance.
-Action: simply lie with your mid back on a foam roller, put hands behind head and gently extend back until head touches ground. You can rest in the stretched position while taking deep breaths and then repeat for reps.
5. Ankle mobility:
-reason: ankles are yet another source of poor mobility for a lot of people. Strangely enough, lack of ankle mobility can cause an array of problems including knee pain, hip problems and back pain. Simply strengthening this small muscle can ease so many issues and help you with the heavy lifts (especially squats).
-action: stand in front of a wall, place both hands on wall and place one foot with toes about 5 cm away from the wall. Now move your knee towards the wall until it lightly touches it. Repeat for 15 reps and with other leg.
6. Leg swings:
-reason: stretches hips and legs. Prepares body for kicking actions required in many sports.
-action: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one foot off the ground, keeping your weight in the heel of your supporting foot. Slowly and with control, swing your leg forward; back under your body and behind you in a single smooth movement. Keep your upper body steady. Each swing should take your leg closer to its full range of motion. Switch sides, and then switch directions, swinging each leg out to the side, back to the center and across the midline of your body.
7. Bodyweight squat:
-reason: gets heart rate elevated and helps warm up all major muscle groups and get the body primed for heavier squats in the workout.
-Action: keeping back flat, abs tight and a neutral spine, squat deeply. Make sure to drop straight down and don't lean forward.
8. Split squat (bodyweight):
-reason: most people have sedentary lifestyles which involves too much sitting. This results in tight hip flexors and rotators which then leads to weak glutes and lower back pain. The split squat stretches the hip flexors and trains the small muscles in the hip to stabilize properly.
-action: simply kneel down on a mat with a 90 degree angle on both legs. Keep your torso tall, abs tight and squeeze your glutes. You can stay stationary or lean in and out of the stretch slowly.
9. Lateral squat:
-reason: helps to increase flexibility and range of motion in hips, strengthens adductors and abductors, and trains body for lateral movement (which is needed in most sports).
-action: take a large step sideways, drive your hips back keeping your back flat (don't lean forward), with the bent knee, keep the knee in line with the toe and keep the other leg as straight as possible. Keep toes pointing forward and heels down. Perform around 15 reps per leg.
10. Band Walk:
-Reason: Activates hip and other lower-body muscles before a workout, Strengthens glutes, Improves balance, stability and mobility
-Action: place an exercise band around your ankles, step sideways with knees bent and walk laterally in both directions. Keep core tight, squeeze glutes and keep toes pointing forward.
11. Single leg deadlift:
-reason: full body muscle recruitment, functional posterior chain strengthening (strengthens glutes, hamstrings and core) and trains balance.
-action: This exercise is much harder than it looks. Use only bodyweight until you have completely mastered it. Graduate to using one kettlebell or dumbbell and then to two. It is essential to move from the hips and keep them square with the floor (don't let your hips rotate or torque). Keep the moving leg as straight as possible and the other leg (on the floor) slightly bent at the knee. Do 15 reps per leg.
12. Glute bridge:
-reason: great hip extension exercise that strengthens glutes, hamstrings and core. Again, most people's glutes are weak from too much sitting. You can't have enough glute strength!
-action: Start by lying face up on the floor with arms to the side, knees bent, and heels on the ground. Lift your hips off the ground until knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line making sure to squeeze your glutes as you reach the top of the movement. After holding for 2-3 seconds, slowly lower your hips back to the ground and allow it to slightly touch the ground before completing another rep. Repeat for 10-15 reps. Do not hyperextend (arch) your back at the top. Keep abs flat and tight at the top of the movement.
13. Walk out plank:
-reason: strengthens core and increases hip mobility
-action: stand with feet far apart, hinge forward from the waist and walk out with your hands into a plank. Then walk back to the standing position. Keep abs and glutes tight. Don't let hips sag. Repeat for about 15 reps.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
When the body is strong and the mind is weak, the result is insubordination. Train your mind as well as your body.
Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor at Robin Mungall Fitness and Divine Health Studio.