How many of you out there use a treadmill or bike or elliptical as their main method of warming up? Be honest. Yes, you, you there. I’m sure you spend about 5 minutes getting your heart rate up, a few hurdlers stretches to get those hammies fired up, and quite possibly a single isolated lunge, and you’re good to go. Let’s hit the squat rack!!!
I can almost envision discs crackling and knees ripping apart like a wishbone on Thanksgiving. Think of it this way: imagine it’s about -40 celsius outside (for the non-metrically inclined out there, that’s about -40 Farenheit, and if you’ve never experienced this before, can I come live where you are!!?!?). If you decide to just turn the key in your car, rev it to red line, drop the clutch and drive off into the wild blue yonder, your car will pretty much tell you to kick rocks and lay there like a dog on a leash that doesn’t want to go somewhere.
That’s pretty much me on a Sunday morning when The Future says “Hey, let’s wake up early and go to the gym!!” My response is typically something like “Hurwarllllla grebbbbbbbs.” This is normally said into the pillow, so it becomes even harder to understand, but for some reason, Lindsay takes it to mean “Yippee!!!! Time to go back to work!!! I’ll be ready to leave in exactly 5 minutes, then I’ll buy you something pretty and recite some of my own original poetry that describes how pretty you are!!!”
So back to warmups. Normally when someone first walks through the door, they’ve either been sleeping or sitting for extended amounts of time within the past hour, which means their joints and muscles are going to function less than ideally. Think about what pro athletes use as their warmups prior to competition: basketball players shoot, lay-up, and work on dribbling; hockey players shoot, skate, stretch, and cut; football players throw, catch, run, hit (lightly), and get their bodies prepared for battle; bowlers drink a beer and order a plate of nachos, and make sure their one glove still fits. See what I’m sayin?? Word.
So for a warmup in the gym, we shouldn’t treat it any less or different: we should take the body through mobilizing exercises that up-regulate the nervous system and muscles involved in the specific tasks, while also increasing heart rate and endocrine response. In short: let’s build before we break.
Here’s a quick example of a mobilizing circuit I use with varying other exercises for different clients, be they elite, rehab, or recreational:
Plus a little of this:
And a shake of that:
…and away we go!!
On top of that is the all-important and often feared aspect of foam roller work. I can’t stress how important it is to involve at least a little bit of SMR work on the areas of the body about to be worked, as well as on areas that have a history of troubles.
This is all part of a warm-up before we begin training heavy and hard. Some clients with a high degree of mobility won’t need much in the way of a mobilizing circuit (it’s like trying to pull on an open door, pretty unnecessary), so they’ll do a few stability drills to get their core and hips ready to work properly and not have a mobility-related injury on their hands, and away we go!!
Most mobility drills only take 1-2 sets of 5-10 reps to properly get the body moving more efficiently, increasing the heart rate and oxygen delivery capacity, and to prepare the body for any heavier work to come. Plus, it’s a helluva lot more exciting to warmup with these types of exercises compared to sitting your ass on the elliptical for 5 minutes.