Great Read! Your warm up should not be your workout!!
Catalyst Athletics: Our Warm-up is a Warm-up
Our Warm-up is a Warm-up, Greg Everett,
Somewhere along the line, warming up became remarkably complicated. And for some, the line between warming up and training has faded to the point that I find myself compelled to say things like the title of this post.
Whenever you start getting confused about what to do, a reliable course of action is to ask yourself a simple question: Why? What is the purpose of this? What am I trying to accomplish? If you can answer those questions, chances are you’ll be able to work it all out just fine. If you can’t answer those questions satisfactorily, don’t be afraid to seek out the advice of someone more experienced in that particular area.
When it comes to warming up, what are we trying to accomplish? The name itself is a bit of a hint, but increasing body temperature is just one element. It might be easier if we rename the warm-up to training preparation. Now if we ask what we’re trying to accomplish, it should be obvious: we’re preparing our bodies for the training to follow.
I’ve seen more times than I can even believe warm-ups that read exactly like workouts—and not easy ones. The first thing I think to myself when I see these warm-ups is that I would have to warm-up to do them. This is a pretty good tip-off that your warm-up may not be serving its purpose. Ring dips, box jumps, burpees and the like are not elements of a warm-up. There will be times when you insert non-warm-up exercises before the primary workout, but these come after an adequate warm-up; they’re not part of it. These are usually remedial exercises to address an athlete’s or client’s weaknesses or activation exercises to help correct inactive musculature in a manner that carries over into the subsequent training (an example would be glute medius activation drills).
The title of this post is a modification of a popular line that demonstrates a lack of understanding of the purpose of a warm-up (which would garner more sympathy from me if it weren’t demonstrative of such an elitist attitude), as well as suggests that some people are more concerned with creating the appearance of athletic ability than actually developing it.
Having recently hired two new trainers at Catalyst, I’m having to go over a lot of the fundamentals again to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. One of the things I find myself reiterating regularly is that the number one priority in this gym is not hurting people. As much as I feel like this should be so obvious it shouldn’t need to be even said out loud, it can be overlooked easily when overwhelmed by the excitement and novelty of certain aspects of training, and often a big part of a trainer’s job is protecting clients from themselves.
That being said, I recognize and accept that some injuries and pain are inevitable with any physical activity, particularly among groups of people who have the shared tendency to push themselves. However, I see this not as an excuse to ignore it, but as a reason to do everything we possibly can to minimize the occurrence and severity of injuries. Much of this is accomplished through programming choices and client entry protocols, but the warm-up plays a significant role.
So what should a warm-up actually look like? Here are some guidelines to help you develop what I would consider an effective training preparation protocol.
This is some repetitive activity like rowing, jogging or jumping rope. I don’t believe this to always be necessary. Its purpose is to get some initial body temperature increase and systemic loosening in unusually cold temperatures or for individuals who have been immobile for a long period of time prior to training. This should be low intensity and for about 2-5 minutes depending on need. We usually start our class warm-ups with one of these or some basic agility ladder drills since most of our clientele work sedentary office jobs. This is definitely important for our early morning classes—usually these clients have literally just rolled out of bed. Agility ladder work is a lot more interesting than jogging or rowing and our clients love it. Partner medicine ball drills are another way to get some more fun and variety into this part of the warm-up.
Possibly the most significant change to my basic warm-up routine has been the addition of pre-training foam rolling. When I was first introduced to the practice, I relegated it to the post-workout period along with stretching. This of course is helpful and certainly worth doing, but rolling before training can make a tremendous impact on movement by allowing muscle and fascia to glide more smoothly. Hitting problem spots a little more aggressively is fine, but generally I suggest pre-training foam rolling be fairly light, smooth and quick rather than slow and painful; the latter I find best saved for after training (this is somewhat analogous to using dynamic stretching pre-workout and static stretching post-workout). I like to hit the upper back to mobilize the thoracic spine, then smooth out the scapular musculature and lat/teres/etc. attachments under the arms. From there glutes, hamstrings/adductors; then VMO/adductors, quads from front to lateral aspects, ITB/TFL, and finally calves if needed. Generally about 10 passes on each area is adequate.
This is where we get into the kicks and twirlies. My goal with this portion of a warm-up is two basic things: make sure I address all the movements or joints necessary, and try to get in enough variation day to day that people stay engaged and perform it properly