The warm-up. We all know we are supposed to do it. Most of us haphazardly do a few quick stretches and then move on to the bulk of our workout, but what exactly is the purpose of a warm-up? Sure, it gets the blood flowing and our muscles “warmed up,” but what if your warm-up was programmed to specifically meet the needs of your muscular imbalances, joint mechanics and properly prepare you mentally and physically for specific exercises? Incorporating 10 to 15 minutes of these methods will make you stronger, more mobile and definitely more effective at safely executing movement patterns.
Generally speaking, most people exhibit many of the same muscular imbalances. As a trainer evaluating a new client, I can almost always count on specific imbalances to be present while putting them through a movement assessment. It’s to be blamed mostly on the lives we lead today. We spend hours hunched over computers, tablets and smartphones. This leads to improper length tension relationships of muscles, altered joint mechanics and eventually pain or injury.
The first step to any warm-up should involve inhibitory techniques. These are basically self-massage and trigger point therapy on muscles that are tight or overactive. Foam rollers became mainstream in the last decade or so, but today we have more advanced ways that are able to pinpoint specific areas of the body that need more attention. Tools such as lacrosse balls, peanuts, Orbs, and rumble rollers are all essential tools to help get you the best inhibitory techniques. Most people need to focus on their calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, thoracic spine, scapula, middle back and pec major/minor. I usually choose 2-3 of these inhibitory techniques per session based on a client’s needs and abilities. Beginners should start with a foam roller and move to more pinpointed tools such as Orbs and lacrosse balls. If a client finds that a specific technique is excruciating, it is best to regress and move to one that is still effective but not incredibly painful. The goal with inhibitory techniques is mild discomfort but not legitimate pain.
After a client has finished with their inhibitory techniques, it is time to move on to self-mobilizations. Monster bands and voodoo floss bands are excellent at helping to mobilize joints that often have limited range of motion. Most clients need mobilization at the ankle joint, knees, hip complex, and shoulder complex. By using banded distractions and voodoo flossing we are able to release some of the fibrous tissue in the joint capsule and create a better range of motion and joint mobility. This is essential for anyone who exhibits any sort of pain or discomfort with movement in any of the aforementioned joints. Opening up joint capsules makes a workout more effective by allowing them proper range of motion and execution of movement during an exercise. Banded distractions are a form of self mobilization that involve using a monster band to create tension and “distract” a joint while taking it thru a full range of motion. To fully understand banded distractions and voodoo flossing it is best to search for a video tutorial on the internet. A quick search will reveal many accurate demonstrations on how to properly incorporate this extremely helpful tool into your mobility warm up.
After mobilizing the joints, finish with a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm-up is generally a compound movement that takes the muscles through a full range of motion with only bodyweight. Some examples would include body weight squats with hands over head, a walking lunge with a rotation, or push-ups with a rotation. These movements increase blood flow to the muscles while taking them through the full range of motion for a movement. It prepares the body for movement in multiple planes of motion, increases your heart rate, and enables the muscles to work synergistically with one another to perform proper movement. It is important to note that dynamic warms ups are preferable to traditional static stretching at the beginning of a workout. Static stretching (holding a stretch for a period of time) at the beginning of a workout can be detrimental because it reduces the force that a muscle can create. You should also warm-up sufficiently before using lengthening techniques (i.e. static stretching) as there is less risk of a muscle tear.
As you can see, there is a lot more to a warm-up than just a few simple stretches and jumping jacks. At first this may seem daunting, but in reality, the above process should only take about 10 minutes to complete. You will see an improvement in your posture, your performance and the effectiveness of your workouts. Besides a smart Google search, a trainer that specializes in corrective exercise and mobility is also a great resource, even if it’s only for 1 or 2 sessions. However you choose to do it, make sure you are getting the proper warm up that your body deserves, your body will thank you.
For more information or to book a class, visit www.phoenixeffectla.com.
The Phoenix Effect, a functional group fitness studio that gets you in shape fast, is offered exclusively at 7264 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA.