by Terry Kozmor
One of the most common questions that I am asked as a trainer is, “How should I warm up?”
This is actually a controversial topic with endless research promoting various “right” methods. Over the years, I have heard contradictory information about almost every form of stretching—static, dynamic, activation, foam rolling, and more. For Ixcela members, you’ll notice that your strength training plan has our standard warm-up routine. I would like to highlight another effective warm-up routine that I typically recommend for clients. The Alternative Ixcela Warm-Up Routine below is ideal for people with various athletic abilities, it requires minimal equipment, and it can be done in any location.
The goal of warming up is to prevent injury by activating the areas of your body that are disengaged for the majority of the day. Since many of us live a mostly sedentary lifestyle—for example, sitting at a desk for eight hours per day—many of our big muscle groups are underutilized for hours on end. This typically includes our hips, back, and core, which is why we want to focus on a proper, methodical warm-up.
1. Static Stretching
I like to have my clients start by lying on the floor and practicing deep breathing for about 30 seconds. This forces them to relax and listen to their body. What hurts? If you have a desk job, you likely have internal rotation and tightness in your hips. If you have been in heels all day, you may have tight calves and soreness in your back. Identify the specific areas of tightness and use a foam roller to loosen up. Start at your hip flexor and work your way down the front of the leg and then up the back of the leg. Repeat on both sides, and then move to the back and side of the body, specifically your lats, the large muscles that run down the side of the body. Always be careful to not roll near your neck area or your lower ribs because you don’t want to put too much pressure on your spine. After foam rolling for about 10 minutes, your body should begin to feel nice and loose.
2. Dynamic Stretching
Next, we move on to more dynamic stretching, which is a series of movements that warms up the body, specifically joints, for exercising. The point of dynamic stretching is to increase your heart rate, create blood flow, and prepare your body for movements that you will be doing in your workout. Essentially, we are trying to “turn on” the mind-body connection. Examples of dynamic stretches include inchworms, the “world’s greatest stretch,” high knees, butt kickers, bear crawls, and toy soldiers. Take your time doing this and make sure to spend at least 5–10 minutes (or longer if you feel particularly tight). Dynamic stretching is a key way to avoid injury, so it is imperative that the movements are done with perfect form. No need to rush!
3. Cardio Activation
Lastly, it is time to warm up your body and break a little sweat. Here we are tapping into both
the aerobic and anaerobic systems, and elevating the heart rate. Pick your cardio machine of choice (treadmill, rower, bike) and spend about two minutes at light to medium intensity. I always tell clients that they should be able to easily have a conversation during this portion of the warm-up. Then, hop off and do some movement preparation for your upcoming workout. For example, you could jog for two minutes on the treadmill, followed by 10 bodyweight squats, 10 lunges, and 10 pushups. This gets your glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders ready for the workout ahead. Again, we are gradually warming up the body and easing our joints and muscles into these repetitive motions. As the workout continues, the intensity will increase. Typically, the cardio activation piece of the warm-up should take 5–10 minutes.
Remember, the purpose of a proper warm-up is to avoid injury. Studies show that warming up prior to working out results in fewer injuries and increases blood flow to the heart, thus lowering the risk of injuring the heart muscle. (1) Your warm-up is just as important as your workout, so be sure not to cut it short—you’ll only be doing yourself a disservice.