Improve Your Training Routine in 10 Minutes
Take 10 minutes to prepare your body for peak performance
I’ve seen far too many people at the gym walking into their workouts ‘cold’. Diving headfirst into their workouts without any preparation and they don’t perform to their potential. Sure, they finish their workout, but they aren’t doing themselves any favours.
Is it the end of the world to skip your warmup? Of course not. But there are serious benefits to taking a quick 10 minutes to get yourself ready for your workout. Below are 4 benefits of doing a warmup and some basic principles you can apply to your own.
Improve blood flow
A primary purpose of the warmup is to gradually increase your heart rate to improve blood flow to your muscles. As you exercise your blood vessels dilate and blood can reach muscles more efficiently. More blood flow means that your muscles receive more oxygen and can produce energy without building up waste products like lactic acid which contributes to muscle fatigue. Without this improvement in blood flow, muscles are more likely to cramp and fatigue.
Muscle has elastic properties in that it can stretch and can return to its original shape. Cold muscles are less pliable and have limited range compared to warm muscles. Taking a cold muscle past its range of motion can cause injury. Having a full range of motion in your joints also allows for proper technique when exercising.
Raise body temperature
Increased blood flow also increases body heat which contributes to the muscle elasticity mentioned earlier. Increased body temperature also facilitates the metabolic processes that allow muscles to fire effectively. Increased body temp also increases the excitability of motor neurons, meaning faster and more forceful muscle contractions when they fire.
Doing a warm up is also great for mental preparation. Once you have a solid routine, a warmup is great for putting you in the mindset for workouts or competition. It’s a chance to get focused for the challenge ahead. When you’re doing your warmup, you can put aside any distractions and put your mindset solely into crushing your workout. You can check in with yourself throughout the warmup and find the headspace you need to handle your business.
Steps for a Good Warmup
Warmups do not have to be complicated. The goal is to get the blood flowing and to get your muscles ready for what you’re about to put them through. Below are some general guidelines and examples that you can use in your own training.
1. Some light cardio to start things off. Whatever you prefer; running, rowing, spin cycle, jump rope, etc. It’s all good, just get moving at a low intensity to get your heart rate up and let your body know it’s about to do some work. 5 steady minutes is plenty to get you started.
2. Mobility work to warm up your joints and get them moving through their full range of motion. Focus on ankles, knees, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders, and neck. Start from the bottom moving up or work from the top moving down. Slowly take them through their full range of motion noticing any areas that feel tight. Doing so warms up your muscles as well as the synovial fluid in your joints allowing them to move more freely. You should be feeling warm and maybe even a light sweat at this point.
3. Next, do some light intensity exercises that use the muscles you’re focusing on for the session. For example, if you are focusing on your back, do some resistance band pull downs or band resisted back flies. If you’re squatting or deadlifting, try some bodyweight squats or hip hinges to target similar muscle groups. 2 sets of 10-12 reps per exercise with 30s rest between sets will do.
4. Once you get to your primary exercises, do some warm up sets with weight lower than your target. Don’t rush into your work sets for the sake of saving time.
When you’re in competition, use your warmup time to gradually ramp up the intensity of in game motions. Hard cuts, sprints, jumping, or swinging a bat should be done at a gradually increasing intensity to the point where you’re almost doing them at game speed. Use your time effectively to get ready for your sport.
What about stretching?
This is going to go against what you’ve heard for most of your life; but stretching or foam rolling isn’t always necessary before activity. The stiffness that you might feel before exercise will often dissipate after your warmup (follow the steps!). Not only that but stretching has been shown to reduce strength and power output when performed prior to exercise. The same has been linked to foam rolling. The mechanisms behind self-myofascial release (SMR/foam rolling) relax the muscle for a short time so that it can be stretched effectively. Stretching is best utilized after activity, when the body and muscles are warm and are more pliable and SMR should be used to supplement that.
If you have some tightness that really needs to release, do light warmup exercises with that muscle group and THEN do some SMR if necessary. Following the SMR, do some activating exercises to make sure the muscle responds well.
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