I will admit, I used to be very lazy with warm ups. It did not look cool and the cool kids at the gym would make fun of me…We all know the guy that starts with 225 on the squat rack or 135 on the bench. Shoot, I used to be that guy! However, experience has taught me a valuable lesson in self-preservation. Simply put, moving more will allow you to move more…Does that make sense?
With warm-ups now being almost universally accepted as an important part of any training routine, how do we navigate these waters for clients to follow suit? What is the information that is relevant for people to simply understand and then implement? Good thing I am going to write about it!
The Basics: What is a Warm Up?
Since communication is key, we like to keep it simple at the gym. A warm up is preparing your body for a subsequent exercise bout. Easy enough, right? Your warm up should not take more than 15 minutes to complete and should incorporate similar movements that you will be engaging in during your training session.
For example, if you are going to be performing a back squat, you should warm up your lower body. More specifically, you quads, glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors just to name a few…
But, as you may have already assumed….I have more to say about that…
Brief Mention: Heat
We can break warm ups into two categories: temperature and non-temperature related. Temperature related activities are classified just as it sounds…Movements that are going to allow our body’s temperature to increase. Science has long figured out that organisms “facilitate work more effectively at higher temperatures”(1). Further more, there seems to be a link between muscle temperature, “relative work rate” and velocity (1)….
Non temperature related warm ups include: increased “baseline energy consumption”, blood flow and post activation potentiation (3). However, just stretching before hand will not allow for the proper physiological mechanisms to occur. Therefore, the participant will not benefit as much.
Briefly mentioning heat is important to understand the rest of the warm up process…There are a tons of other researched physiological effects that occur at this time but temperature is something that we all can understand.
Structuring a warm up is just as important as a well programmed resistance routine. We follow the RAMP method and the science that supports its underpinnings. This process is not only for athletes but can be modified for general population clients as well. The important factor aside from the sequential nature of the acronym is to encourage movement before hand.
The initial stage of a warm up will start with a general exercise to increase your core temperature. Withing “3-5” minutes our core temperature has rapidly increased and thus better preparing ourselves for the next stages of the warm up process (2). This stage is important because it has been shown that a increase of muscle temperature (2-4 degrees Celsius) has a positive impact on performance.
An example of this would be to hop on a bike for a few minutes or walk on a treadmill…
Activate & Mobilize
I put both of these into one category because often times, you will be doing them both simultaneously. This is where you want to turn on or activate the musculature that is will be associated with your subsequent exercise bout. However, we want to remember that heavy loads during this time will not elicit the response we are after.
For example, if we are about to back squat, we want to participate in a preemptive activity that simulates the squat. This will keep our activation patterns similar and work on the desired mobility/postural benefits at the same time. Lastly, this will help you cognitively prepare for the exercise…
Post activation potentiation is a fancy term for turning on your central nervous system. More specifically, excitation of the nervous system, will lead to greater subsequent power output. Since we have increased muscle temperature, introducing PAP may lead to improvements in “muscle fiber conduction velocity” (2). Which, is what we are striving for to be able to lift…After this stage, we are ready to start our heavy loading…
A simple example of this would be squatting quickly with an empty bar. Instead of throwing a couple 45s on the bar, focus on moving the unloaded bar quickly as you can for a few reps. Maintain control and try not to snap your knees in half… As you add more and more weight, you will be primed and in better position to successfully move your prescribed weight…
Warming up does not have to be difficult. What exercises you perform is completely up to you. As long as you follow the guidelines above, you should see a marketable improvement in your training performance…
Remember to: increase your heart rate a bit first, work your body through a range of motion and them move some light weight quickly….
This seems like a lot to perform before you lift but we are able to get this done in the gym in less than 15 minutes…Motion is lotion and the more you move, the better you are going to move.
(1) Mcgowan, Courtney & Pyne, David & Thompson, Kevin & Rattray, Ben. (2015). Warm-Up Strategies for Sport and Exercise: Mechanisms and Applications. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 45. 10.1007/s40279-015-0376-x.
(2) Racinais, Sébastien et al. “Sports and environmental temperature: From warming-up to heating-up.” Temperature (Austin, Tex.) vol. 4,3 227-257. 4 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1080/23328940.2017.1356427