You’ve grabbed your friend. Hugs and high-fives were exchanged. You hit the gym; you’re there to lift, to run, to swim; to exercise. Where do you start?
Too often, we’re so eager to exercise that we skip one of the most beneficial parts; we don’t warm-up. When time is at a premium, it’s the first thing that we’ll ditch, and we move on to other things.
Don’t kid yourself. You have to warm-up.
The specifics of your warm-up may change based on the activities you’ll be participating in, but a general warm-up should include what Alwyn Cosgrove has acronymized as RAMP, which stands for Range of Motion, Activation, and Movement Prep. Over the course of a proper warm-up you’ll produce several results, including:
- Increase body temperature (Get your sweat on!)
- Improve joint range of motion
- Loosen over-active muscles
- Strengthen under-active muscles
- Improve movement quality
- Be totally awesome. (Definitely science based.)
To achieve these goals, you need to address tissue quality, include mobility and activation drills, and movement preparation work.
Self Myofascial Release, or self massage, allows you to address trigger points in muscles that create pain and effect movement. Our bodies develop adhesions between muscle and fascia that limit how much we can move, and massage helps reduce these adhesions. What has more give to it, a wrinkled shirt or an ironed shirt? Using objects like foam rollers, The Stick, or lacrosse balls, you’re creating a similar effect, and preparing the body for exercise. Here’s an example:
After you roll, it’s time for mobility drills that lead to a greater range of motion and more efficient movement. The drills that you include depend on your specific abilities and restrictions, but they should address mobility at the ankle, hip, thoracic spine, shoulder. Mike Boyle’s T-Nation article The Essential 8 Mobility Drills includes his go-to mobility drills to include in your workout. As a go-to drill, I like to recommend two similar drills that work as a catch-all for mobility. They include the Walking Spiderman with Overhead Reach and Hip Lift when you have space to move, and any YogaPlex variation if you’re staying in one place:
After you’re comfortably mobilized, it’s time for you to activate. What the hell does that mean? It means that you’re ‘waking up’ the muscles that might not be working as well as they should have; somehow, the dimmer switch got turned down, and it’s time to turn it back up! In general, this usually includes the glutes, abdominal musculature, and lower traps. If I could only include two movements to wake those up, it would be the Glute March and Floor Slide:
Those are a great pair because you can do them back-to-back, without moving. It doesn’t get much easier.
Movement preparation can vary greatly depending on what your goals for the training session. They may include a series of body weight patterns, or you’re including a learning drill for an exercise you’re working on, like one of the powerlifts or an Olympic Lifting variation. Athletes may include specific plyometrics or throws. In general, you should be moving. This could be jumping, throwing, hopping, crawling; there are a number of opportunities you have to explore movement. In general, include a lower body exercise, an upper body exercise, and a carrying or crawl variation. Here are three drills you might put together:
After your movement prep work, you’re ready to continue on to whatever else you may have planned for the training session. You can do this before you lift, run, before a yoga class, or in the middle of the day for a quick 20 minute pick-me-up. Begin to treat warming up as prerequisite to training, and you’ll notice that you’re better prepared to train, and that training is easier. That’s a good thing, because now you can train harder.
This is a great time to make a corny joke about taking the “On RAMP” to fitness, and how a proper warm-up helps accelerate your results. I can piggyback on yesterday’s post about how you can hop in the HOV lane to fast track your fitness. I won’t do that though. Just be sure to grab a friend, and make sure you both warm-up. Here’s a reminder: