Warmup?!.. Nah Bro, I Just Get Straight To It !
We are ALL guilty of going into the gym and performing futile warmups. For legs we do a few leg swings and shitty air squats that are accompanied by a bunch of crackles and pops.. making those around us have the nostalgic feeling of enjoying a bowl of Rice Crispies before grade school (Worst Cereal known to mankind). Or, even worse for upper body doing crazy arm circles we learned in 4th grade from a gym teacher who just got their rotator cuff repaired (Coincidence? I think not) .
On the bright side we have the right idea.. which is before doing the main workout we must MOVE in order to be better prepared for what is to come. However, what lacks in both the upper and lower example is the fact there is no direction for which the warmup is headed. You first need to understand the point of a warmup, from there you can have a more concentrated focus on areas that need to be addressed, which then allow you to select movements that align better with your workout for the day. This sequence results in you having the most effective workout possible.
The Purpose of a Warmup:
Textbooks, Google, and Fitness Professionals all will give you some variant of the true definition of a "warmup" .. Good thing is, they all more than likely are right to some extent. Typically the purpose of warming up can be described as physical activity to prepare mentally and physically for your chosen activity. As you can see this definition is very broad. So to even further dissect this term, a warmup needs to elevate the body temperature, so yes you should be sweating by the end. A warmup should increase your heart rate so blood flow can reach the muscles and deliver the nutrients needed to enhance function. Range of motion should be addressed to ensure that you can get into positions comfortably and safely. Finally, "Mind Muscle" connection should be enhanced during a warmup.. or in more scientific terms.. use the warmup as a chance to potentiate the workout and movements to come.
Elevate the Body Temp:
MOVE. The first 5-10 minutes of your warmup should just be movement in the form of either walking on your favorite cardio machine, shooting hoops, or even my favorite.. dancing in the car before going into the gym. Just MOVE.
Foam Roll / SMR (Self Myo-Fascial Release) / Mobility
After you've established some general movement.. Next you should be doing some foam rolling, SMR (TheraGun, Lacrosse Ball Rolling, etc.), and mobility. Now, Foam rolling and things alike have been debated by many on its true "effectiveness". Bottom line is that quality foam rolling will give a transient (temporary) feeling of being able to achieve new ROM with less pain. Key word here is transient so to maintain this new found range of motion.. I suggest following up your foam rolling with a corresponding mobility movement since mobility training has been proven to actually improve and keep the ROM you may already have. So for example, perform 20-30 sec of rolling on the glutes.. then go right into the active pigeon pose to enhance the protocol. Or, foam roll the quads/adductors and perform a weighted goblet squat hold for 10-15 sec. Do this for your selected body parts and in around 5-8 minutes or so you will feel like new.
Sidenote: If you don't know what to focus on during this time.. just make sure your shoulders and thoracic spine feel good, your hips and glutes feel ready, and maybe most importantly.. your feet and ankles are prepped since they are the base of the body.
Just as controversial as foam rolling.. the debate on "activating muscles". Muscles are always "on" except if some crazy nerve innervation injury occurs. When I speak on activating, I am speaking more to a sense of "feeling" the muscles that are going to be used or assisting in your main movements. For example, some form of glute activation needs to take places regardless if you're doing upper or lower body. Banded Clam shells, X-walks, Single leg hip bridges etc will get the job done. For the upper body Rotator cuff work with bands will always be a good idea.. Do not be afraid to go high reps but def do not go to the point of fatigue.
During this time you can also practice your single limb movements since this type of training utilizes many of the forgotten stabilizer muscles that if trained properly may help enhance the overall execution of the subsequent bilateral movement. Doing single leg squats to a box with great control get the muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle ready to take on the demands of a bilateral back squat. Performing single arm KB Bottoms Up Presses before a bench or overhead pressing session will help get those often neglected smaller muscles in the shoulder ready to assist.
Dynamic Movement / Potentiation (Optional):
Now this part of the warmup for many gets overlooked as does the potentiating section of the warmup. I say its optional because some people may have time or space constraints that prevent them for doing these type of movements. I personally think its a crappy excuse because this part of the warmup could truly set the tone for how your overall session goes due to its role in stimulating the nervous system. Low level plyometrics (extensive) are excellent during this time, so things like pogo hops can be a fun way to integrate more movement while strengthening the feet and ankles. For the upper body you could do plyo pushups or med ball slams. As you get more advanced, things like sprints and box jumps can be performed for the lower body, while med ball throws and band assisted plyo pushups can be done for the upper body.
Honorable Mention during this part of the warmup could be performing isometrics.. just be aware the level of adaptation will be related to the angle in which the isometric is performed. So, doing a quarter squat isometric will likely only enhance the angle that you perform the quarter squat at. This has benefit, but just make sure the rest of the warmup has full ROM components. Check out my "Isometrics 101" training blog for more info.
There is no right or wrong length for a warmup.. Spend between 15-20 minutes to get a adequate warmup and still have 40-50 minutes for a sufficient training session!
Ready To Reign.