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The Art of Warming Up

Girl doing warm up exercises before therapy

Yes, I called it the "Art" of warming up not the "science," sue me. On a serious note, warm ups have great benefits prior to your desired training for the day. Whether it be a specific sport or the usual gym day, make sure to take your warm up seriously. I can hit you with many studies on how warm ups help (let me know if you want them) but I'd rather just jump into why and how we should warm up. So of course these recommendations are science based, but there is an "art" to tailor these recommendations to your needs.

For the sake of not boring you, the reader, it may be easier to give some general science based guidelines on how to warm up, that way you can tailor it to your own goals. Remember, make it yours and modify it accordingly. You can also ask your friendly neighborhood physical therapist to help you out if needed. In a very simplified way we want to achieve 2 things with a warm up, raise your body's tissue/muscle temperature (maybe a light sweat) and prepare your body for the movements to occur during the main part of your session. Here's a basic template you can use, I break it down into 3 basic components for my athletes/patients:

Treadmill walk or jog as a low intensity cardio warm up exercise

  1. Light low intensity cardio to begin to raise HR/tissue temp- Obviously you don't want to make this high intensity since you will burn yourself out for the main component of your workout/training. This can be on any machine or a nice walk/jog. A zone 2 activity is fine since everyone seems to love the "zone 2" stuff these days :) This should take about 8-10 mins.

  2. Self soft tissue work- Grab a foam roller or lacrosse ball/tennis ball (tennis is less dense) and roll out any areas where you feel particularly sore. If it it's causing you any lasting soreness right after, it was too aggressive and back off a bit. There's many different tools for this but usually the 2 mentioned above are the weapons of choice. Don't over think it. Massage out any major muscle groups you will be using on that day. This helps get blood into the muscle and possibly helps your nervous system relax the muscles of interest. Easy example, a muay thai athlete/kickboxer may roll out their glutes/hips and overall legs on a foam roller to improve their flexibility with kicking that day. This should take around 3-5 mins.

  3. Dynamic stretching/Training specific drills- While these two are a bit different, it's easier just to lump them both into number 3. This is where we start to get even more specific to the movements involved in the main portion of your training. In general, dynamic stretches/active stretching (no not static) are stretches that move your muscles/joints through full or specific ranges of motion. For example, (we’ll stick with the muay thai fighter) a muay thai athlete will do some leg swings/hip opener dynamic stretches to better prepare for kicks that day. Then for the sport or training specific drills this same athlete will start to do some light/low intensity kicking drills/shadowboxing to prepare for the main portion of training that day. Another example is a runner, dynamic stretches might be similar to the ones above then they might do some more runner specific drills like knee drives or skipping to prepare for sprints/long endurance run.

Low intensity kicking drills to warm up before training

Warms ups are essential to any training goals. It prevents injury and prepares you body/nervous system for the stress it's about to endure. It's preparation both mentally and physically. Remember, mind and body go hand in hand. So while you're getting physically prepared your mind also gets dialed in simultaneously. All in all, a proper warm up induces better physical performance and may prevent injury through this enhanced performance. Regardless, just like anything in life, it's important to prepare. So prepare accordingly for your training with an individualized warm up.

Questions or concerns? Don't hesitate to reach out or comment below. Also, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter :)

Until next time,

Dr. G


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