The value of a warm up can’t be overstated. Learn more about warming up before training.
By Grant Liephart
One of the most important parts in a workout is the warm up. It is crucial that the body is prepared for the stress that it endures during a workout. Many people find warming up to be inconvenient or a waste of time. However, we need a proper warm up to avoid injury and to perform at our highest level. The value of the warm up can’t be overstated!
Why is warming up so important?
Performing a proper warm up primes our body for the movements and stress that workouts bring. The cardiovascular system kicks on improving blood flow throughout the body while our core body temperature increases. Allowing our core body temperature and muscle temperature to increase helps our muscles become less stiff. We don’t want to start the workout cold with poor robotic movement patterns.
Crucial for injury Prevention
This is crucial to help prevent injury. Warming up has been proven to dramatically decrease the chance of injury during physical exercise. It does this by preparing our bodies to move in a specific way.
Most people sit a lot!
For example, for someone who has a desk job and sits all day their body has been stuck in the motor pattern of sitting in a chair. This person would have serious trouble if they walked into a gym after work and started a workout without a warm up. Their body and brain need to be primed for the specific movements that they will be doing in the workout.
Other warm up benefits
Not only will a warm up get the body ready to move in a specific way, but it will also increase range of motion in the joints and help establish the mind muscle connection to the specific muscles that will be used in that workout. All of these benefits allow us to remain healthy by preventing injury which will keep us in the gym longer.
Another benefit of warming up is that it helps us to mentally prepare for the upcoming work. As you are warming up you can focus on the upcoming workout and determine if there are any goals you would like to set for the workout. This will allow you to have a productive session making you feel good about the work you just did.
General Warm Up
Have you ever seen someone walk into the gym, hold a few stretching positions, then rack up weights onto a barbell and start lifting? Well, that’s an example of a horrible warm up routine. That is what leads to injury and less time exercising. When we think about warming up we need to first think about increasing our heart rate in order to increase our core temperature. This can be done through a “general warm up”. A general warm up allows the body to elevate core temperature and get blood flowing through the muscles that will be driving the lifts in that workout. It is important to focus on muscles that may be lacking strength but are used as primary movers in the lifts.
Weak areas in our body
For example, many people have weak triceps, lats, hamstrings, and/or glutes. All of these muscles play a huge role in compound lifts. Often these muscles lack the strength to help us improve our lifts. For example, if the workout was a lower body day it would be important to get the mind muscle connection with the glutes and hamstrings firing. Performing exercises such as glute bridges, banded monster walks, banded good mornings and hamstring curls will specifically target the glutes and hamstrings. These movements will improve mind body connection. Also building strength in a weak area.
For an upper body day incorporating movements like tricep extensions and lat pull downs into the warm up will help prime those muscles for the upcoming movements. Use weights that are easily moved. Each exercise will be somewhere from 15-25 repetitions. We would want to do this for 2-4 sets. Ideally we would like to work into choosing 3 exercises, performing them for two to four rounds of 25 repetitions. It is important to not take long rests, if any, between sets.
Remember, the goal is to increase our heart rate and prime the muscles that we want to be driving the movements during the workout. Incorporating an abdominal movement into the warm can be beneficial as well because the core is used in just about everything we do in the gym.
Why we don’t recommend static stretching
Stretching can also be applied, however, it must be the correct type of stretching. Active or dynamic stretching would be most beneficial for gaining range of motion before a workout. Passive stretching has been shown to decrease explosiveness and power.
Specific Warm Up
Once the general warm up has been completed, a specific warm up should be applied. Specific warm ups are used to get the body and brain prepared for the specific motor pattern that will be used in the workout. Whether you will be squatting, or snatching using a specific warm up is very beneficial for decreasing injury. Also will help you perform better!
Example of specific Warm up exercises
Specific warm ups can include movement progressions or just a variation of the compound movement in the workout. For example, if power cleans were in the workout then utilizing a movement progression would be a specific warm up. Using either a PVC pipe or a barbell you would start doing the movement piece by piece until your body has been prepared for that motor pattern. Slowly start adding weight. This prepares your body to move with proper technique under load.
To optimize time some compound movements can be incorporated into the general warm up. However, this should only be done with less technical movements such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press. For example, if barbell bench pressing was in the workout then my general warm up could include weak areas in the lift. For exampe, four sets of 25 reps of banded tricep extensions, lat pull downs, and dumbbell bench press. Although I am not using a barbell in the warm up I am still priming my body for the bench press.
Build General Physical Preparedness
A proper warm up will help increase an individual’s GPP. General Physical Preparedness factors in conditioning, strength, power, endurance, flexibility, structure, and skill. Basically, it is how fit we are. Increasing GPP is important for everyone. Whether you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, CrossFit athlete, or just a regular person off the street. Having a high GPP will not only allow for better performance. But most importantly, will also increase our longevity in and outside of the gym. The value of the warm up for increasing GPP usually isn’t discussed.
A way we can help increase GPP is through a proper warm up. Doing exercises for 2-4 sets of 25 repetitions increases conditioning and endurance. It also allows us to hammer the weaker muscles in our body . Which in turn, will make us stronger and more powerful in our lifts. Flexibility will improve with more stable joints making our overall structure stronger. Once all of that is well developed our skill in our lifts will be able to increase. Keeping us safe and injury resilient.
The value of a warm up can’t be overstated. Hopefully, you will start incorporating more focused warm ups so that you get stronger and stay healthier!
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