When first designing a training program, warm up exercises are the base and most important part of the program.  Think of the warm-up as the foundation to your house.

Could you build a house without a foundation?  Yeah, sure.

Would it look crooked and eventually crumble?  Yeah, most likely.

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The same goes for the warm up that precedes your workout.

Could you not warm up at all and hop straight into 5 max repetitions of front squats?  Go ahead.

Could you do some sort of awkward arm shake thingy-ma-jig?  Be my guest.

But, will this lead to optimal performance or you getting the most out of your training?  Absolutely not.

When a proper warm up is performed, the many benefits one can achieve include

– an increase inmuscle temperature and blood flow which allows for better oxygen and nutrient drop off
– an increase in neuromuscular activation
– an increase in heart rate and catecholamine levels
– proper alignment and posture

In a nut shell, you should be leaving the warm-up area with a good heart rate, sweat, good joint alignment, and ready to go wrestle a dinosaur.

To achieve the above qualities, there are specific steps one should take when performing a warm-up.

Step 1: Alleviate any fascial restrictions

Alleviating fascial restrictions through the process of self-myofascial release using a foam roller, LAX ball, and other tools will help improve mobility and neuromuscular efficiency.  Due to the breakdown of muscle tissue while working out, soft tissue adhesions and tightness can restrict the range of motion of a joint and cause muscular imbalance.  These in turn can cause faulty movement mechanics, injury, and neuromuscular fatigue.

Through myo-fascial release we can reduce overall muscular tension through a process called autogenic inhibition.  Decreasing the muscular tension in restricted areas prepares the muscle for proper range of motion during dynamic mobility drills.

Step 2: Achieving optimal  joint alignment

When we view the body joint by joint, there are specific qualities we want to achieve at each joint to achieve optimal performance.  Certain joints need different qualities.  For example, increased flexibility at the lumbar spine is not something we want to achieve.  With that being said, the following qualities should be the ultimate goal for optimal power output, strength, speed, or muscular endurance.

Joint by joint need:

– Foot= stability and control
– Ankle= mobility, dorsiflexion usually needing to be trained more than plantarflexion
– Knee= stability, balance between knee extensors and flexors
– Hip/Pelvis= mobility, stability, neutral positioning, and proper hip extension without compensations
– Lumbar spine= stability, stability, stability
– Thoracic Spine= mobility
– Scapulae= Stability, proper rotation
– Glenohumeral Joint= mobility, stability
– Cervical Spine= neutral alignment

Drills included in the warm-up should include the movement patterns of squatting (bi/unilateral), hinging, pulling, pressing, and rotation.  With the usage of some of the mobility drills shared later, these qualities can be achieved.

Step 3: Increase heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow.

Too many people make the mistake of performing static stretching to warm-up.   However, static stretching is one of the worst things we could do to prepare for physical activity.  In order to contract the muscles, cross bridges between our contractile proteins, actin and myosin, must form among other things.

When holding a static stretch, we lengthen out the muscle past its optimal length/tension pulling the actin and myosin heads further from one another.  Hence, when we then signal the muscle to generate force output, the cross bridges cannot easily form and bad things such as muscle strains and tears are at an increased risk of happening.

Overall, the aim should be towards dynamic mobility drills which get the body moving and help achieve optimal joint alignment as discussed above, an increase in heart rate, body temperature, and neuromuscular activation.

Step 4: Make it specific to the activity

Lastly, we want to make sure our warm up is specific to what the workout will entail.  If you are going to be squatting, incorporate some squatting.  If you are going to be running, incorporate some running mechanics work.

View the videos below for some dynamic warm up exercises to help achieve the above qualities.  Perform 10 repetitions of each prior to your training session at a challenging pace to get your heart rate up.

PVC Squat T-Extension

Dowel RDL

You also may try out this Muscle Maxx workout and diet plan!

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