We all understand that getting warmed up before our workout is a good idea (whether we actually do it or not). But it can be unclear the best way to design a warm-up in order to approach your workout with safety and efficiency. In this article, I’ll review the three main phases of a warm-up, why they are important, and share a few options for designing your own warm-up routine.
Before you ever begin a workout routine, you want to be sure to address any overactive muscles groups through the process of inhibition – calming or restricting a particular muscle group in question. When you take the time to inhibit these overactive groups, you begin to restore proper length-tension relationships between the muscles that contribute to healthy posture – reducing the chance of injury and promoting healthier movement and range of motion. You can identify these overactive muscle groups by noticing what feels tight or knotted, or you can have a personal trainer perform an assessment to identify these overactive areas across the body.
When it comes to designing the inhibition phase, there are a few approaches. Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) refers to the technique of applying pressure to a knotted or overactive area in order to signal the muscle to relax. This can be accomplished with a foam roller or lacrosse ball, or even your hand if you’re short on equipment. When performing SMR, you want to apply pressure over the muscle group until you find a trigger point (that feel-good kind of hurt, or tender point). Once found, hold the applied pressure to that point for 30-90s in order to signal a release. I usually try to find one knot in each muscle group I plan to target for that day.
The second, and probably least used, component of a great warm-up is the process of activation – waking up or contracting a certain muscle group that will be a prime mover during the workout. The benefits of activating these muscle groups include an increase in blood flow to the active muscle tissue and increased capacity for oxygen exchange (your body’s capacity to utilize oxygen is crucial to the entire energy cycle of muscle contraction). Additionally, the process of activation enhances our “mind-body connection” – the link between our central nervous system and the muscles we are trying to fire at any given time. In total, the activation component of your warm-up will ensure that the primary muscles you are targeting during the workout are ready to be challenged and will contract when needed.
When designing the activation phase of your routine, you want to be sure to target the muscles groups that you plan to use during your workout. For example, if it’s leg day you want to target the glutes since they are a prime mover in most leg routines. You can do this through glute bridges and other specific movements – just be sure that you are concentrating on contracting that muscle during the movement for the greatest effect.
Raising Your Temp.
The last component of a great warm-up routine is to raise your body’s core temperature. The benefits of elevating your body’s temp include increasing the rate at which your muscles can contract, enhancing your body’s ability to use stored energy, and greater extensibility (stretchiness) of soft tissue. All of which contribute to faster and safer performance of a given muscle group you are targeting.
When you’re designing this portion of your warm-up, it is important to use full body movements whenever possible. This is because when more muscle groups are used, greater energy is required, and thus greater energy is burned creating heat for raising your body’s temperature. You may include movements like jumping jacks, burpees, or mountain climbers, or even go for a brief run. The duration of this phase can vary but make sure you get a minimum of 5 minutes and no more than 15 mins.
If you’ve enjoyed this article or would like to learn more about the specifics behind each of these warm-up phases, or even request an assessment, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear what you think.
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– ANDREW JACOBS, CHC, CPT
Personal Trainer | Health Advisor