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Edition 67: Why Well Executed Warm-Ups Are A Rarity
A *proper* warm-up routine. Absolutely crucial for preparing your body for the demands of any high quality movement. Don’t try and run before you can walk and all that. Whatever that big thing is you want to do? Your body is not ready for you to drop that bomb at a moment's notice. So being the boring, boring man that I am, I’m going to suggest you reduce your risk of injury, and really mean what you do when you do it.
But what do I mean by this? How do you ‘mean it’ with a warm up? For me, it’s about 3 key things you shouldn’t forget if you don’t want to end up misdirecting your energy. However before I give you the keys, let’s start by highlighting most people’s idea of a good warm up:
Surprise, surprise, it always starts with a cardio machine (I can’t remember the last time I warmed up with a cardio machine). Probably 5-10 minutes of light activity (jogging, cycling, cross-trainer) and then they are ‘ready’ to train. That’s fine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a cardio warm up - it helps increase your heart rate, blood flow, and body temperature, priming your muscles for the upcoming workout. Nothing wrong with that. But that is where the average warm up ends (if carried out at all) - and that is the problem.
Somebody feeling slightly more adventurous and clued up, might then throw in some dynamic stretching and mobility exercises: This is great, and will allow you to target the specific muscles and joints involved in weightlifting. Dynamic stretches generally involve controlled, repetitive movements that take your joints and muscles through a full range of motion (leg swings, arm circles, walking lunges, hip rotations, and shoulder rolls are common examples).
Why would this not be enough?
Yes, these exercises help improve flexibility, enhance joint mobility, and go some way to activating muscles you'll be using during your weightlifting session. But remember, the best possible warm-up routine will prepare your body not only for the specific movements you will carry out, but even more specifically the TYPE OF ADAPTATION you are looking for. Therefore we are taking 3 key things into consideration:
1. HAVE PURPOSE TO EACH MOVEMENT SELECTION
This is just about thinking carefully about the session you are carrying out, and ensuring each warm up movement is appropriate, prepares you for full range of motion for the most important exercises in the session. If my training session is upper body push, I do not need to warm up with the treadmill and leg swings.
2. INTENT TO EXECUTION
Now rather than the session and the exercises in a general sense, you are now thinking specifically about the way you will perform the exercises in question. For example, the way I would warm up for squats as part of a circuit session (spidermans, lunge and rotate, glute bridge) is usually different to the way I would warm up for a max strength or power squat session (deep squat hold, touchdowns, banded side plank abduction, slow-mo into max speed reps.).
We are thinking about the type of contractions that will be the main focus of the session - is it eccentric, concentric or isometric? If our adaptation goal is strength or power then the key driver of this is the concentric phase and how quickly we can execute it with the given load. So warming up with some slow, gentle cross trainer and a couple of stretches isn’t going to cut it.
3. APPROPRIATE TIMING
Finally, you need to take into account how long or short a time you have available for warm ups in your session in the grand scheme of your training life. If you are somebody who finds themselves strapped for time to get workouts in, and you are just about able to squeeze 1-3 gym sessions in per week - your time in the gym is like gold dust, and you don’t want to chuck it away after having it in the palm of your hand.
Make your warm ups direct, to the point, and time efficient! Do not waste this time with 15 minute warm ups if your workout time is already precious to you. Get only the very most important preparation done, then get straight into your key lifts, and go through them in very slow motion (‘greasing the groove’), finding and accessing your strength at each incremental stage of the lift, just for a few reps at a time.
Gradually building through the intensity levels (in load, and speed) on your lift, you then work your way up to your working sets, and before you know it, you’ve only spent 5 minutes warming up, and have spent 5 minutes on your most important movement of the session, knowing you are going to lift like an absolute machine!
Movement of the Week: Half-Kneeling Lateral Slam
2 x 5 each side pre-strength workout