The most undervalued part of making gains has to be a person’s warm up. I know you will not gain muscle from simply getting ready to workout but hear me out. How much easier is it to improve your physique when you are fully healthy and able to workout versus being injured and out of the gym? I cringe when I see people stroll into the gym and jump into their workout right away as your odds of injury by doing so increase immensely. I have heard people say that they do not need to warm up, as they have never seen a Cheetah or a Lion warm up before they catch their prey. They simply get up and chase it down. I have one simple counter points to this: You are not a jungle cat thus you cannot treat your body like it is one. Another common error that I see with people’s warm up is that it is not sufficient. You do not have to spend a lot time warming up but only doing a couple of static stretches will not be sufficient. Here is how to properly warm up before you workout:
A great way to get rid of soreness from your workout the day before is to roll it out. Rolling out using a foam roller is a form of self-massage that helps to get rid of tightness or soreness that you may be feeling in your muscles. You can use them on almost any part of your body from your feet to your neck minus your back. The benefits of rolling out include an increase of blood flow throughout your body, an increase in range of motion, and a decrease in the chance of injury. All of these benefits stem from the fact that rolling out helps to loosen up your entire body. Foam rollers can also be used after a workout as a cool down. This will help to reduce the amount of soreness you will feel the day after your workout.
Note: When rolling out be sure to AVOID doing any of the following:
-Holding it on one particular spot
-Rolling too fast
-Additional time and pressure on knots (additional time meaning 5 - 10 minutes)
-Rolling out your lower back (spine is not protected there)
-Using poor posture
After you have finished rolling out it is time to get your muscles warm. Traditionally people would use static stretching to get the muscles loose before they workout. The issue with doing that is your muscles are not warm yet and will not be ready to stretch out yet so it is best to leave static stretching for after your workout. Dynamic stretching involves stretching while in motion where the end movement is not held. This will allow the muscles to loosen up and get warm. The movements in dynamic stretching also help to better motivate you for a workout as static stretching is more relaxing because you are sitting in one spot when you are doing it. An example of some dynamic warm up exercises would be as such:
- Lunge and Twist: Making sure your back is straight, lunge forward comfortably and slowly rotate your upper body from one side to another. Repeat this movement with the other leg. Do this about 10 times per leg. This exercise will get your legs, glutes, hips, back (upper and lower), and your core.
- Arm circles: With your arms straight and to the side start by making small circles with your arms for about 20 seconds. Then make your arm circles larger for another 20 seconds. Make sure your circles are controlled and be prepared for it to burn a little bit.
- Barn Doors: Lift one leg up so that it makes a 90-degree angle with your shin and your thigh. Rotate your leg out and bring it back down to the floor. Repeat this with both legs for 10 reps
- High kicks: Loosens up your hips and your hamstrings. Alternate kicking one leg at a time with a straight leg. Do this for 10 reps per leg.
- Huggers: Stretches the chest, shoulders and the back a little bit. Essentially you are giving yourself a hug with this stretch. The finishing position should have your hand touching its opposite sides shoulder. Since this is a dynamic stretch you will not be holding this position. Instead swing your arms at a moderate pass going alternating going one arm over the other for 10 reps.
After you have finished rolling out and you have done some dynamic stretching then prepare to do your first exercise. Do not touch the weight you were planning on using yet! You must gradually build your way up to your desired weight. First start by grabbing a weight that is 50% of your 8-rep maximum for 8 to 10 reps (or even lower if you would like to). Next do 75% of your 8-rep maximum, and lastly do 85% of your 8-rep maximum. Although your muscles are loose and warm they still need this last warm up to get them ready. The lighter weight will help to prepare your muscles for the stress that you are about to put on them.
After you have completed all of the above you will have successfully prepared your body to workout! Do note that some days your warm ups should be longer than others. For example you may require more rolling out on days that you feel extra sore on, or you may need some more time doing dynamic stretching because you were sitting down all day. This is fine as there is no set time that it should take you to warm up as the main goal is that you are preparing your muscles to pump some iron. Even though you will not make gains directly from warming up never underestimate the importance of a good warm up!