It’s Saturday morning. You arrive at the gym motivated to have a great workout. Last night’s pizza and red wine is still on your mind. Time to burn-off those extra calories by training the house down.
Your back, hammy’s and calves are feeling a little tight, so you drop down and quickly do some static stretches. You jump back up to your feet, swing your arms from side-to-side, and take a couple of deep breathes… warm-ups done. You’re ready to go!
Everything still feels a bit stuff and sore. Not to worry, you’ll get warmed-up after you finish the first round of your circuit.
You check your fitness app for today’s cardio workout… Kettlebell swings, burpees, box jumps… You grab a 20kg kettlebell and away you go!
It’s the same warm-up ritual for all you cardio workouts –
You never do any general movement to get your body warm. You never bother to practice any of the exercises until you jump straight into the first set of your workout, and your mind’s probably still focused on all the fun you had last night at dinner with the girls.
Warming up properly sounds a bit trivial and boring, but it really does matter.
In fact, messing up, or worst yet, skipping your warm-up is a shortcut to injury. It’s also a great way to ensure your technique gets worse, performance decreases and your body recomposition goals (fat loss or muscle gain) plateaus sooner.
There’s a great quote by Benjamin Franklin which I think sums up why it’s so important to warm-up – “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
The main reason we warm-up is to maximise our return on investment (ROI).
By taking 5-10 minutes at the start of each session to make sure your body is warmed-up and feeling supple, you are potential saving yourself months of inactivity and hundreds of dollars in physio bills due to injury.
By taking 5-10 minutes at the start of each session to warm-up properly you are preparing your body for optimal performance. With each improved performance your motivation levels and self confidence begins to sky-rocket.
By taking 5-10 minutes at the start of each session to warm-up properly you are preparing your body to handle a greater training volume, thus getting more bang-for-your-buck out of each workout. Increasing your training output will often lead to a greater ability to reach your body composition goals (strip body fat or build muscle).
By taking 5-10 minutes at the start of each session to warm-up properly and replicate the movements in your workout, you’re telling your body what’s going to be happening later in the session, so it becomes accustomed to using proper technique. Your goal should always be to execute each exercise with excellence
How to Warm-up?
Now that we’ve established the reason why we warming-up, you might be wondering what’s the best way to go about actually warming-up.
Traditionally a general approach to warming-up involves some low intensity aerobic activity and then static stretching of specific muscles. With the proposed benefits being increased flexibility, and increased body/muscle temperature which leads to increased performance.
It has been proven aerobic activity during warm-up improves performance and helps prevent injury. However, static stretching under 30 seconds neither improves nor decreases performance. And it doesn’t decrease the risk of injury. So what does this tells us?… Well it suggests static stretching could simply be a waste of time when done as part of a warm-up.
So what should you do to perform the perfect warm-up?
Firstly, you need to included some form of general aerobic activity. This will increase your core temperature, increasing the temperature of your muscles and increasing its overall extensibility and readiness for more strenuous activities.
Your goals is to increase your core temperature 1-2 degrees. A couple of minutes skipping, jogging, rowing, or cycling will do the trick.
Secondly, you’re looking to create some form of glute activation. Think about it, today’s modern lifestyle encourages you to sit on your butt for hours at a time, causing your gluts to become lazy, weak and inactive.
If you want to get the most out of those kettlebell swings or even just beat your best time on the treadmill you better gets those glutes fired up and activated prior to your workout. The easiest and quickest way to do this is by using mini-bands or loops. Lateral walks, bent-knee walks and overhead squats are great exercises to incorporate. Try 1-2 sets, 10-15 reps.
Thirdly, replace those static stretches with dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion.
They can be used to help improve mobility, improve muscle activation, and practice up coming motor skills. Plus they will continue to warm-up the body.
Dynamic stretches can be functional and mimic the movement of the exercises/movements you’re about to perform. Leg Cradles, Hand walks, Inverted Hamstring and Scorpions are a few great exercises to incorporate. Try 1-2 sets, 4-6 reps.
Finally, you’re looking to develop some movement integration and neutral activation into your warm-up. Basically this means you want to practice the exercises you’re about to do, at a sub-maximal intensity.
By replicating this in your warm-up, you’re telling your body what’s going to be happening later in the session, so it becomes accustomed to using proper technique.
You also start activating your Central Nervous System (CNS) which will make you more powerful and explosive when you come to the hard work later on.
Use the exercises in your cardio workout to perform a working warm-up. Aim for 50-60% intensity and cut of the reps in your workout by half:
i.e.: if your cardio workout involves 30 kettlebell swings, 16 burpees and 10 box jumps, then your working warm-up round might be 15 kettlebell swings, 8 burpees and 5 box jumps all done at 50-60% effort.
Key take-home advice
+ By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail
+ Maximise your ROI by staying injury free, continually improving your athletic performance and sharpening your technique
+ Your warm-up should consist of
1. General aerobic activity
2. Glute activation
3. Dynamic stretching
4. Working warm-up round
Now you have your new warm-up plan locked down it’s time to hit the gym and outperform yourself. Hope you found this article helpful and keep striving to look, feeling and perform at your best.
Founder + Head Coach | Soultrain