There are a variety of ways to train. Regardless of the exercises you choose, they all have one major thing in common:
They must begin with a proper warm-up.
Ideally, this should involve dynamic, total-body movements that elevate your heart rate. Read below to learn how you can benefit from warming-up, as well as the common pitfalls to avoid.
WARM UP WITH PURPOSE
The goal of the warm-up is to prepare your muscles for intense training. If done properly, it will also significantly decrease the chances of injury.
Choose a dynamic activity that includes total-body movements. This elevates the heart rate which delivers more blood to the active muscles, thus making them more pliable and less susceptible to injury.
Though less important, movement specific activity is ideal as it can familiarize your muscles with the intended exercises included in the day’s workout. For example, if you are speed training, a warm-up consisting of activities that focus on running form would be superior to jumping jacks.
Lastly, dynamic exercises can help increase proprioception, or your body’s awareness in space. This is another key component of injury prevention that can be maximized by more complex movements.
[Check out Stack for a list of some dynamic movements you should incorporate in your warm-up. http://www.stack.com/a/football-dynamic-stretching-routine]
MAKE THE TIME
Long gone is the idea that it takes hours upon hours in the gym each day to reach your fitness goals. Depending on what they are, you may not need much more than 15-30 minutes in addition to your hard work and dedication.
Likewise, your warm-up can be as extensive or streamlined as necessary. Again, the goal is to increase blood flow to your muscles. This can be done with brisk walking, a light jog, 3 minutes on the elliptical, or by any combination of the exercises recommended above.
Tailor your warm-up to your specific needs. If you have 15 minutes for some body-weight exercises, 100 jumping jacks might be a good option. If you plan to spend the next hour in the gym targeting legs and back, a more structured warm-up may be warranted.
STRETCHING MAY NOT BE AS HELPFUL AS YOU THOUGHT
Research has shown that static stretching prior to activity typically results in diminished performance - decreases in weight and reps performed. Ballistic stretching, also not recommended, is only slightly better than static. Active warm-up and dynamic stretching has positive effects on performance.
Muscles work in synergy, regardless of whether you are performing multi-joint exercises, or choose to isolate a particular muscle group. Hence, they should also be stretched in this manner. For example, heel drops offer a dynamic way of stretching the calves and Achilles tendons, and therefore are superior to a static calf stretch prior to activity.
Learn more about heel drops and other dynamic stretches here:
DEALING WITH MUSCLE SORENESS
Your level of training may require a more intense warm-up. Often times, heavy strength training is associated with increased muscle soreness. Myofascial release (MFR) can be used to optimize performance and reduce soreness.
This technique removes restrictions in your muscle through gentle, sustained pressure that can be applied with your hands, a lacrosse ball, foam roll etc. High levels of soreness are likely found in deeper muscle tissues. MFR addresses these tissues, whereas the other components of the dynamic warm-up may not.
Check out Functional Patterns for more on MFR.
The warm-up is an essential part of every workout. Choose dynamic, total – body movements to increase the heart rate and delivery of blood to muscles. In addition to maximizing performance, this practice will help keep you safe.
Your warm-up should be unique to your needs. Draw from the tips above to create the perfect plan for you.
Anthony Dugarte M.D., C.S.C.S.
About Dr. Dugarte
Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S. is a Cleveland, Ohio native who has enjoyed success in sports, as well as academics. He accepted a full athletic scholarship to attend Kent State University and graduated, Cum Laude, with a B.S. in Exercise Physiology. At Kent, Dr. Dugarte was a member of the Golden Flash Football Team and earned Academic All-American Honors as a defensive lineman.
He is currently the Research Fellow for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Dugarte has 8 years’ experience as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.