Exercise Warm Up: Clean Up Your Warm-Up for Fresh New Gains

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It stands to reason, that if your warm-up sucks, so will your workout. This article aims to clean up the process, raise your chances of greater gains, and maximize your performance. Let’s start by refocusing on why we should warm-up in the first place…

Exercise Warm Up: Common Denominators

While warm-ups are a necessary constant, their specific strategies may vary quite a bit. However, whether you practice yoga or MMA, you are likely incorporating a few of the same principles for precisely the same reasons.

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Core temperature

Thorough and appropriate warm-ups increase body core temperature. Even small increases in temperature appear to aid in muscle pliability, blood flow, and joint fluidity. While elevating temperature alone is not enough to sufficiently prepare the body for performance, it is a vitally important part of the process. The simplest approach to satisfy this requirement is to perform whatever technique you choose until, or slightly beyond, the point at which you begin to perspire.

ROM

I often separate range of motion (ROM) into three distinct areas: passive, active, and functional. More specifically, being able to pull a joint through a given range of motion by using an external force or apparatus (passive ROM); being able to control a joint through a given range of motion without using an external force or apparatus (active ROM); and being able to control a joint during flexion/extension at other joints without using an external force or apparatus (functional ROM). ROM is greatly enhanced during warm-ups that involve the full range of the movement the athlete intends to perform. To satisfy this common denominator, perform warm-up techniques that involve the full ROM at the given joints you plan to target.

Neuromuscular priming

Efficiency of movement is a hallmark outcome of proper warm-ups. With each rep performed, the body becomes better at activating the specific muscle groups in the specific movement pattern and sequence. However, be careful not to overextend toward exhaustion. While the athlete gets more efficient with each movement, there is a trade-off that comes with this expense of energy. To satisfy this common denominator, utilize the full movement pattern, timing, and (to some extent) force, while keeping as much energy in reserve as possible.

Psychological priming

Psychological priming starts the minute the athlete laces up and doesn’t end till performance is over. Techniques used to achieve this goal of warm-ups can get somewhat tricky. For this reason, I highly recommend minimizing the use of techniques that may be unfamiliar to the athlete before an actual competition. However, there is a school of thought that advises practicing harder than you play.  This may involve warming up in novel and experimental ways before practices. To satisfy this common denominator, engage the in movements and strategies you’ve already mastered while adding elements of “new” to them, such as dynamic/unbalanced forces, verbal cues, etc.

Clean Up Your Routine with a Fresh New Approach

With the fundamentals in mind, lets add a level of “new” to our perspective that may breathe fresh life into this often overlooked, but incredibly important, part of our routine.

As noted earlier, different sports often employ different methods to achieve the same results. For example, an underlying goal of every warm-up routine ever performed is to enhance engagement by the athlete. However, enough repetition of any given routine may eventually fall victim to redundancy and, subsequently, disengagement. This redundancy does have a flip-side in sport, referred to when discussing flow, but all too often the recreational trainee may suffer from this redundancy more than reap its’ rewards.

For this reason, I’ve often used warm-up techniques from different sports to conscientiously engage otherwise disengaged clients and athletes. Even if only to revisit the “why” behind what we do, our routines might benefit by sampling strategies from other athletic approaches.

Some general techniques from different sports are noted below. I’ve categorized them by their common denominator mentioned earlier and aligned them top to bottom according to force production. Starting with the top left, and moving toward the bottom right, consider adding an element or two before maximal performance. In doing so, I guarantee you’ll start to see the warm-up for the performance enhancing strategy it was always intended to be.

Be wary, however, when introducing new elements to your warm-up. The goal is to engage – not overwhelm.

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YOGA

Core Temp

Raising Room Temperature; Basic Muscle Contractions

ROM

Basic Movements; Advanced Movements with Blocks

Neuromuscular Priming

Muscle Contraction Coordinated with Sequenced Breathing

Psychological Priming

Rhythmic Sequences; Lighting; Smells; Music

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RESISTANCE TRAINING

Core Temp

Incline Walk; Elliptical

ROM

Static Stretching; Dynamic Stretching;

Blended Stretching Techniques

Neuromuscular Priming

Technical Warm-Up Sets; Acceleration Techniques

Psychological Priming

Music; Self-Talk; Trainer Interaction

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LONG DISTANCE CARDIO

Core Temp

Light Version of the Sport

ROM

Blended Stretching; Mobility Drills

Neuromuscular Priming

Repetitions in Place

Psychological Priming

Cadence; Music

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SPRINTING

Core Temp

Light Version of the Sport; Warm Clothing

ROM

Blended Stretching Techniques; Mobility Drills

Neuromuscular Priming

Acceleration Techniques; Non-Fatiguing Plyometric Techniques

Psychological Priming

Self-Talk; Music; Coach Interaction

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DYNAMIC SPORTS

Core Temp

Light Version of the Sport; Warm Clothing

ROM

Blended Stretching; Mobility Drills

Neuromuscular Priming

Multi-Directional Drills; Acceleration Techniques; Simulating Reactive Tasks

Psychological Priming

Cueing; Self-Talk; Team/Coach Interaction

Closing Remark

If you feel the need to reinvigorate your warm-up (let’s be honest, we all probably should at some point), consider strategically adding a new element or two. In doing so, you may find fresh new life in an otherwise stale and dated routine.

Rock on,

-Dalton

Follow Dalton on Instagram and Twitter @DaltonOliver5 for more game-changing content.