The warmup is a key part of a training session, it sets the tone for the work that will be done. Yet many people skip it or go about the warm up wrong. The purpose of the warm up or “prep work phase” is to prepare the body for the demands that will be placed on it, to prepare muscles, tendons and joints for the run, lifting or sport. This allows the brain to turn on the muscle chains that are appropriately needed, it enhances awareness of the body in space, range of motion and tensile relationships needed. We’re now reprogramming our neurological system.
The biggest mistake that is made is the use of static stretching, the classic old form of strengthening where you hold a position for a period of time and feel the stretch. Prior to a workout this can actually decrease the force that a muscle can produce, thus leading to decrease in performance, decrease in contractile ability. This can lead to muscles potentially being strained or pulled if the muscle cannot contract or produce enough force to absorb the load placed on it. Thus injury can occur. So if you are a person who is going to be performing any exercise, static stretching should not be in your warm up. The old method of Stretching is out, static stretching also does not increase flexibility at the joint level, it only lengthens the muscles fibers and the tendons of the muscles thus not influencing joint range of motion. This is often misunderstood and people think they can get more flexible by stretching well, not true.
Skip out on the static, no literally skip! Yes, skipping is a great form of warm up, it is what we call dynamic movement, moving the body, joints through a specific range of motion to allow the muscles to contract and relax appropriately. It also allows the brain to understand the range of motion a joint has, and to deliver the appropriate blood flow and nutrients into the muscles and joints to prepare them for movement. We are still stretching the muscles by letting them contract and relax and be primed.
Another thing people get into is foam rolling, there is a time and place for it. To sit there on it for 20+ minutes and roll around is wasting precious time that could be utilized for more important work to increase your overall fitness. Foam rolling helps increase blood flow to the muscles, with the pressure placed on the muscle it can relieve tension that could be there in the fascia or the muscles (the knots people feel). But the mistake made is people grab the foam roller and hang out there for a period of time, on their phone or whatever. If you need to roll then you roll if not leave it on the rack and move onto the dynamic and activation work. Spend 20-30 seconds on a specific area then move on.
This is where it is at, this is the most important aspect of the prep phase before the workout, this is telling the command center aka the brain what is coming, it is contracting muscles, holding tension, priming movements, muscle chains, synching muscle groups up. Dynamic movement whether it's running, rowing, weightlifting is multiplanar, always will be so we have to have certain muscle chains/ patterns firing at the right time to support, stabilize and move us. The activation should target these chains, they turn on the glutes, abdominals, hamstrings, to sync up, then as we move up the abs sync with the muscles of the upper body for optimal movement patterns. This is where most of your time in the warm up should be.
Everyone should be warming up/ performing prep work before they exercise, but they need to do it in the appropriate manner to get the most out of what they are doing and to make sure they are not wasting their time that they could be using to benefit from the training.
- Haddad, Monoem1,2; Dridi, Amir1; Chtara, Moktar1,3; Chaouachi, Anis1; Wong, Del P.4; Behm, David5; Chamari, Karim6 Static Stretching Can Impair Explosive Performance for At Least 24 Hours, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 1 - p 140-146
2.Samson M, Button DC, Chaouachi A, Behm DG. Effects of dynamic and static stretching within general and activity specific warm-up protocols. J Sports Sci Med. 2012;11(2):279-285. Published 2012 Jun 1.