I would say 75% of people that just walk into the gym do not even bother going through a proper warm-up before they workout, and I would say almost 100% of those people end up with some sort of injury over the course of a given year.
A proper DYNAMIC warm-up is essential to getting the body in a ready state to perform the task at hand, your workout. That workout could be anything, ranging from intervals on the bike or treadmill, squatting in the power rack, or picking up dumbbells and strength training. Now in my experience in the gym, 4 scenarios play out.
Scenario 1: You jump right onto the hamster wheel (aka the treadmill) and start moving along until your “prescribed” 30 minutes are up.
Scenario 2: You walk over to the dumbbell rack and start throwing weights around, paying no mind to damage you’re doing to your body.
Scenario 3: You do a few stretches, chest, hamstrings, quads, and off you go to your workout.
Scenario 4: You do a dynamic warm-up, one that almost feels like a workout, and prime your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints for the workout ahead.
Answer this question: Which one describes you?
If you answered Scenario 4, congratulations, you know what you’re doing. Keep up the good work. There’s a great chance you won’t injure yourself during your workout. On top of that, you probably have a great deal of flexibility, mobility, and stability.
As for the rest of you, you have some learning to do.
A warm-up is more that doing a little jogging or biking. It is even more than stretching a couple of muscles. It’s all about getting the blood flowing, the heart pumping, and the joints moving.
A dynamic warm-up is exactly what it sounds like. You are actively moving around and heating up muscles and joints of the body to prepare them for your strength training routine. Remember those dorky exercises that you used to do in high school gym class? The arm circles and jumping jacks? Yea, those are a small part of a dynamic warm-up. There are a lot of ways to ensure your body gets properly warmed up and ready for exercise. Without these, it would be like trying to start up an old car and pushing the engine to the max. Sooner or later, it’s going to fail and breakdown.
Here are few guidelines for a great dynamic warm-up: Remember S-E-M-I
Specific: warm-up the muscles and joints your using for the day.
Easy to accomplish: the warm-up is only a warm up, have fun with it! Don’t over think it and make it complicated.
Movement based: focus on mimicking the movements in that days routine.
Increases blood flow: any good dynamic warm-up should get your heart pumping.
So let’s break that down a little bit.
If your workout has a ton of explosive movements in it(Olympic lifts, plyometrics), then some good warm-up ideas could include jumping rope, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, burpees/squat thrusts, and maybe a few low box drills. This keeps it relevant to the workout ahead, and relatively simple thus preventing a waste of energy that would be needed in the warm-up, while still get the much needed muscle prepared for what’s to come.
Let’s say your routine contains mostly controlled speed strength moves. Whether it be an upper body/lower body split, full body workout (which are better for you) or a body building routine, you would want to warm-up the muscles and joints specific to that day’s workout. If you were doing a leg routine, you’d want to go with some full range body weight squats, hip mobility drills like spider man climbs, hip presses, or kettlebell swings with a warm-up appropriate weight (find a qualified KB instructor before trying). As for an upper body routine, something as simple as pushups and a few bodyweight rows with a TRX are a great idea to get the shoulder moving(ps shoulder mobility is super important Better range of motion = less chance for injury). Adding in mobility exercises like stick-ups or snow angels can also help.
Notice how we change the warm-up to be relevant for what we’re doing in the workout. This is definitely not a case of “one size fits all.”Try this warm-up
-Overhead squats (with or without a broomstick of some sort) x
-Walking or stationary lunges (add elbow to opposite knee for more advanced exercise)
-Caterpillar/Inchworm (with or without pushup)
-Thoracic Mobility (from hands and knees)
-Leg Swings (on back with arms out to side, swing one leg side to side w/o shoulders leaving ground)
-Finally some animal based movements for total body warm-up and conditioning. For example, Apes, Dog, Bear, Crab, Tiger/Cougar
Guarantee you'll be ready to rock.
Regardless of what’s in your routine, make sure to pay attention to mimicking the range of motion you will be using, and feeling the increase in blood flow to the intended areas. This will decrease your risk for injury. Less chance for injury means more chances to work out and less use of pain killers.
Look for part 2 when I talk about foam rolling.