Preparing for Action
A good warm up before training is crucial for injury prevention – this is something that most people who exercise are aware of. Unfortunately, a lot of people still don’t know what constitutes a “good” warm up. Go to any fun run, marathon, local soccer game, gym or swimming pool and you’ll still see people using static stretches to prepare for whatever activity they intend to do in the near future.
Let’s be very clear about this: static stretching before exercise is not only useless, it actually REDUCES ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. You’re probably better off doing no warm up than doing static stretches before physical activity.
Studies have shown that static stretching before exercise reduces performance in power, maximal voluntary contraction, balance, and reaction time. Nobody wants that!
If Not Static Stretching, Then What?
A good warm up involves:
- Joint mobility work that gets the synovial fluid lubricating the joint, as this equals smoother, safter movement and reduced risk of joint injuries.
- Activation of the muscles you’re going to use. This is very important, you need to “wake up” the muscles so they’re ready to fire properly when you increase the demands on them. If the muscles aren’t firing properly they’re more likely to be injured and they can’t properly protect the joints.
- Moving muscles actively through the range of motion that will be required during exercise.
- An increase in core temperature, getting the blood flowing and literally warming the body up so that it’s more pliable and responsive.
Therefore, dynamic movements that achieve the above results are the preferred method for warming up and preparing the body for action.
Importantly, a warm up should be specific to the activity you intend to carry out – increased specificity means decreased risk of injury. This means that a general warm up on the stationary bike or treadmill is generally of little use.
Magnificent Mobility is a DVD created by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson, both of whom have been accomplished athletes themsevles (powerlifters) and therefore understand the importance of preparing the body properly for exertion. And their expertise in preventing and rehabilitating injuries has made them very sought after coaches by many elite athletes.
Magnificent Mobility provides detailed descriptions of over 30 exercises that can be used as part of a good warm up program. Importantly, the DVD goes through the rationale for these exercises so that you can pick the ones that are going to suit the specific requirements for your activity (for example, if you’re an AFL player one of the areas you’re going to want properly activated and suitably warm is the hamstring, so exercises like the “Toy Soldier” will be very useful in your warm up).
Here’s a preview of the DVD:
The exercises in Magnificent Mobility can also be used as a cool down and for recovery or just for general health.
The Yellow Power Band
The yellow (super-mini) Power Band is one of my favourite tools for warming up and you can achieve all of the requirements for a good warm up mentioned above.
The yellow Power Band is especially good for getting areas that are tough to activate, but are important for almost any form of activity, such as the glutes.
Here’s a very brief look at just a few of the exercises you can use in a warm up with the yellow Power Band:
A good, tailored warm up routine is another weapon in your training smarter arsenal; it will significantly reduce your risk of injury and will actually improve your athletic performance. Five to ten minutes is all that’s required, and it really is worth putting in that small amount of effort for the gains you’ll get.