Try This Warm-up Routine
Renowned strength and conditioning coach Eric Cressey made a great post recently about the power of a good warm-up. Cressey said “some of my best workouts came on days when the idea of training seemed impossible. Sometimes all you need to do is walk through the doors and put yourself through a solid warm-up, then see how you feel.” Simple message, yet so incredibly accurate. We all have those sluggish days when we’re not fired up mentally and/or physically. But did you ever regret a workout? These are the workouts that lead to that rewarding feeling, where you feel accomplished and much better than you did when you first walked in. Although warming-up may seem tedious, it can make or break your workout. If you’re an athlete or someone who likes to train hard, if you skip your warm-up or rush it, the risk for injury severely increases.
So what constitutes a good warm-up? Is it foam rolling? Stretching? Riding a bike? These are common questions asked by athletes, their coaches, their parents and everyday people. Warm-up protocols become a little more complex for athletes who are training for performance. There may be several things coaches and athletes want to accomplish when warming up for vigorous training sessions. The key is laying out a plan and getting it all done within a reasonable time block. Here is what my personal checklist looks like for warming up my athlete clients as well as some of my non-athlete clients who want to push themselves. Give it a try, I hope you find it helpful.
Phase 1 – SMFR (Self Myofascial Release). Recommended time: 3-10 minutes.
Feeling stiff from your last workout or from sitting too much? This is where we get into muscle preparation techniques with foam rollers and other SMFR tools. Rollers are a great tool for scanning the body for tight spots (myofascial knots). When knots are found, apply some pressure with more body weight. Tight fascia causes discomfort, muscle soreness, poor blood flow, decreased nerve conduction efficiency, lack of flexibility, and reduced joint range of motion. Want to know more about foam rolling? Check out this blog I wrote a while back.
Phase 2 – Dynamic Warm-up. Recommended time: 5-7 Minutes.
Dynamic warm-ups consist of sport-specific movements that take joints through a controlled, full range of motion. This phase will deliver a good stretch, increase muscle temperature and core temperature, promote blood flow and deliver oxygen to working muscles. Dynamic warm-ups lead to faster muscle contractions, improved rate of force development and can improve reaction time.
Phase 3 – Static Stretch “problem areas”. Recommended time: 2-5 minutes.
After rolling and going through a dynamic warm-up, you should be feeling fairly warmed up. However, let’s say your hamstrings still feel tight at this point. Now would be a good time to do some isolated hamstring stretches since blood flow has been sent to the area during the rolling and dynamic stretching portion. I like static stretching to come into the equation after sufficient blood flow and oxygen delivery takes place. Studies have shown that static stretching alone in warm-ups decreases power output and for that reason it receives a lot of scrutiny when compared to dynamic warm-ups. However, I feel that it has its place when performed in proper sequence. It is also recommended to use static stretching after a training session. Stretches should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Phase 4 – Core and Glute Activation. Recommended Time: 3-10 Minutes; 2 exercises; 2 rounds; Moderate intensity.
Getting some core and glute work in during a warm-up can be a game changer. Almost every athletic task is initiated through the core and hips. The main job for the core is to protect the spine and when active, it helps keep us safe during training. Therefore, it makes sense to “wake it up”. Try some isometric holds like plank variations or some anti-extension exercises like dead-bug variations, the possibilities are endless! Many power exercises and explosive movements are driven through the glutes. When it’s time for explosive lifts like power cleans for example, active glutes that are ready to be called into action can make all the difference. To activate the glutes try doing some band walk variations or bridge variations.
Phase 5- “Sweaty is ready”. Recommended Time 4-7 Minutes; 2 exercises; 2 rounds each; Moderate intensity.
Lastly, this is where I like to get my athletes ready to be explosive. This phase might include some plyometric drills, sprint work, med ball throws, agility drills, single leg proprioceptive exercises, etc. This is a delicate phase because the goal is to break a sweat, but we do not want to completely gas them out. It’s important to prescribe an appropriate rep-range that will get the heart rate and respiratory rate going to a proper degree.
I hope you found this post helpful and can use it as a guide. My takeaway message is if you want to push yourself week-in and week-out, you need to make time for your warm-up. Give yourself a minimum 15-20-minute window to prep your body.