Why You Need a Better Warmup

In Ask Us Anything, Magazine by RI Magazine

Q: “In the summer I don’t seem to need much of a warmup. Five minutes or so on a treadmill and a quick stretch and I’m ready to get into my workout. But when it gets colder I’m finding I need a more time to get ready. Besides adding more time to the treadmill, what should I be doing?” — Jack M., via Twitter

Answer by Alden Ryno, Level 2 Certified Physical Preparation Specialist:

While running on the treadmill may make you feel warm, it’s actually doing very little in actually preparing you for the workout to come. Once you leave the treadmill, it’s not likely that you’ll be running anymore during your workout. So what can we do to better prepare for a workout? Use the muscles and movements that we are about to load! The outline here is a bit lengthy, but that doesn’t mean that your warm-ups need to be. They only need to be 5 or 10 minutes, max, to reap the great rewards from a proper warm-up.

A proper warm-up begins with ensuring that the muscles you intend to use are free of most knots and trigger points through SMR (self-myofascial release), or foam rolling, lacrosse ball rolling, and the like. Applying pressure to the tissues (muscles) will allow them to relax which can then be put through dynamic stretching to improve your range of motion without the diminishing effects on the elastic properties of muscles often caused by static stretching.

Following a couple of dynamic stretches, activating your core will do wonders for both achieving a further range of motion and allowing you to produce and apply more power to whatever movements are to follow in your workout; core work should NOT be underestimated in a proper warm-up routine. What follows core work is what most people think of as a warm-up; activating the muscles (and antagonistic muscles) of the focus of the workout. A couple of intelligently selected movements go a long way here. And most can be done with just bodyweight or a few resistance bands. Then, depending on your workout, a proper warm-up will end with a few explosive or plyometric movements.

Proper Warm-Up for Upper Body, Pressing Focused:

1) Foam Rolling, 30-45 seconds from lower back to upper back; focusing on tender areas, breathing deeply.

2) Medicine Ball Rolling, 30-45 seconds per side from armpit across chest and into shoulders.

3) Static Dead Hang Stretch, 15-30 seconds; relax in the bottom position of a pull-up. Allow shoulders to rise and upper back to stretch.

4) Over-and-Back Shoulder Stretch with band, 8 reps (AKA band dislocates); with arms at shoulder width, grab a band and make a big circle from your hips to over your head to your lower back. If band tension is too great, spread your hands wider.

5) Band Retraction/Face Pull/External Rotation, 10 reps; very light, the three together are one rep. Contract core.

6) Band Pull Apart, 15 reps; with straight arms and wrists, stretch a band from arms out front to the point that the bands lands across your chest (ending with your body in a “T” position). Contract core.

7) Pushups, 10 reps; pause briefly on the ground on each rep, maintain muscle tightness and a strong core throughout.

8) Pushup Plus (Serratus Push-Up), 10 reps; in a push-up/extended-arm plank position, ONLY move your shoulder blades so your torso rises and falls vertically.

9) Medicine Ball Chest Toss, 5 reps; press/shove a medicine ball as far as your can, with maximum force.

The benefits of proper warm-up go a long way in not only preparing your mind and body for a training session, but also for injury prevention. By properly massaging, stretching, and activating the tissues that will be used in training, the risk of an injury is severely diminished. On top of that, you get a good sweat going, get your heart rate up, use your muscles more, and practice the movements you’ll likely do in the “main workout.” Also, a hoodie might be a good addition for the winter months.

Alden Ryno is a Level 2 CPPS coach based in North Georgia. He’s an avid bodybuilder and powerlifter and is a co-founder of PinnaclePerformancePhysiques.com where he works with clients from a variety of backgrounds and locations, turning their fitness and health related goals into reality. He may be reached at alden@PinnaclePerformancePhysiques.com