Warm-up: The why and the how!
When it comes to warming up, people are full of excuses:
“I don’t need to warm up.”
“I’m already warm.”
“Caffeine is all I need. Caffeinate and dominate!”
“It doesn’t simulate real life. If someone needs help moving a couch, you don’t ask to warm-up with the lighter couch…”
“I only have 45 minutes, so I have to start the workout right away…”
Truth is, most people just don’t take warming up seriously. And I get it. It can be tedious and boring, and time consuming, too. And it’s definitely not as glamorous as throwing big plates on the bar or kicking upside down into a handstand.
But what if I told you this: Properly warming up will help you do four things you probably are very interested in achieving:
4. Stay injury-free
3. Move more efficiently
2. Perform better
1. Recover better
One reason injuries happen—both acute and overuse—comes down to being in the wrong position. Properly prepping your muscles and joints during warm-up—from your shoulders to your ankles—will allow you to get into better, safer positions, and ultimately avoid injuries!
Being efficient also largely comes down to positioning. Have you ever done a heavy clean, where you caught the bar a bit low and it felt so hard to stand up from the squat? But then you manage to catch the bar in a better position on the next rep, and the squat feels easy? Positioning!
This is especially true if you’ve had an injury: As someone whose ankle mobility is limited because of an achilles tear a few years back, the difference in my positioning during heavy cleanswhen I have properly warmed up my ankle versus being lazy with my warm-up is like NIGHT AND DAY!
A 2010 article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19996770 ) looked at the effect of warm-up on performance. The result: Warm-up improves performance 79% of the time!
I have discovered this is especially true during shorter, more intense workouts. Personally I find the first time I get my heart rate up in a training session is always the most painful. Sometimes it’s tempting to avoid working too hard in the warm-up because you’re scared of “burning out” before you get to the workout, but the truth is the workout will feel WAY better and easier if you jack your heart rate up in the warm-up a couple times.
The same is true of strength movements. Have you ever tried a muscle-up cold? Or even a pull-up? How hard does it feel? Pretty hard, right? At least, way harder than when you’re warm…
The point is: The better your warm-up, the more efficient—AND EASIER—the movements will feel! And the better your performance will be.
Tired of being sore?
Warming up might even help you recover!
In fact, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics said warming up might even mitigate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). (https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/hukin.2012.35.issue-1/v10078-012-0079-4/v10078-012-0079-4.xml)
Warm-up before the warm-up!
Even though we always warm you up before a workout during a personal training session or group class, the truth is one hour doesn’t leave enough time for the most effective warm-up, which is why it’s your job to arrive 10 to 20 minutes early to warm-up on your own before your session.
Not sure what to do? Here’s a useful template:
1. 5-10 minutes of dynamic warm-up: Open and close all your joints.
2. 5-10 minutes of constant movement at a low intensity (row, bike, skip, run…)
3. 2-4 sprints (After your 5-minutes at a low intensity, increase the intensity for 3 to 4 short 30-second bursts at a higher intensity. Increase the intensity with each sprint. The idea is to jack the heart rate a few times).
4. Individual warm-up: What are your strengths and weaknesses? Does your mobility or stability need more attention? Do you have a lingering injury? Tackle any specific limitations you have.
5. Workout-specific warm-up: What is the workout/training plan for the day? If you’re squatting, take the time to warm-up your squat: Hips, ankles, glutes, hamstrings… Is there a lot of pulling? If so, warm-up your lats, elbows, scapula. Cater this part of your warm-up to whatever you’re going to be doing that day.
If you’re ready to start taking your warm-ups more seriously—for the sake of your performance, health and recovery—don’t hesitate to reach out to your coach. He/she can give you some useful warm-up ideas that will take into consideration your strengths and limitations. Because caffeinating and dominating just doesn’t work…