Just Do It
Warming up is important. However, most of us do not do it correctly or at all! When I say warm up, I do not mean walking into the gym and throwing 135 on the bar and doing a few reps. Another less terrible example would be walking on the treadmill for 5 minutes then hopping right into some lifting. I have seen numerous trainers do this and it is not an ideal position to put yourself nor your client in.
What Is A Warm-Up?
I’am glad you asked! The warm up is an integral part of any training session. The goal for the warm up is to prepare the individual for their upcoming training bout or competition. Subsequent performance can be enhanced if these are programmed correctly. There are two kinds of effects that we look at in regards to warming up: temperature and non-temperature related. For the sake of simplicity, temperature effects increase muscle and core temperature. Non-temperature effects can increase blood flow and post activation potentiation. This is all a fancy way of saying that you are going to move and perform better than you would if you just came in off the street and started squatting. Another overlooked benefit is synovial fluid redistribution. The more we move, the more our joints become exposed to this fluid and thus, making our movements a lot more smooth.
It Takes Two Kinds
There are two types of warm-ups: general (or non-specific) and specific. A general warm-up includes light aerobic activity. This may be a jogging, walking or something as crazy as skipping. The aim here is to activate deep muscle temperature, increase heart-rate and blood flow. This should not be taxing. In other words, you probably should not go push the prowler or do 20 minutes of sprint work before your squat session.
Next, is our specific warm up. This will incorporate movements that are specific to the task at hand for the day. For example, if you are warming up for a squatting session, it would be wise to warm your legs up in a comparable motor pattern. Doing push-ups or curls does not count (I have seen this before…). It is still very important to remember that none of this should cause muscle fatigue. If you are killing yourself before you get under the bar, then you are going to have an off day. All in all, both warm-ups together should take no more than 10-15 minutes.
It Gets Even More Specific
RAMP is an acronym for (Raise,Activate, and Mobilize and Potentiate). I use this to make myself sound a lot smarter than what I actually am. So, lets keep this one simple…the lighter the load on the body, the quicker your concentric movement should be. For example, all of my clients start with an empty bar when they squat. They usually do 1-3 sets depending on their ability levels but the main emphasis is on the speed of the bar when they are standing up from the bottom portion of the lift. Inversely, the greater the load, with your eccentric movement, the slower your concentric (standing up) movement will be. This is important because we want to tap into the type II muscle fiber (fast twitch) usage. However, when we approach our heavy sub max working sets, we still need a forceful push upwards to stand up with the bar. The former information is an example of tempo and not your overall effort in standing up with a squat. You should be pushing hard when you are doing your working sets regardless!
To summarize…on squat days, start with an unloaded bar. Do 2 to 3 sets of of 10 and concentrate on standing up with a lot of force. As the weight increases and you approach your working sets, the speed of the bar is going to slow…this is simple physics and the best way to prepare for these heavy bouts is to ramp up with lighter weights first.
Remember, we want to program motor patterns. A warm up can be whatever you make it out to be as long as you are abiding by certain guidelines. I usually incorporate the movement patterns that I will be using in my training session as a warm up to make it easier on myself. This should not be a 20 minute ordeal either. 10-15 minutes at the most and you should be under the bar. Having a plan will help the efficiency of the training session and with time management as well.