Warm Ups – More Than Just Going Thru the Motions

Warm Ups – How and Why

July 4, 2012

Warm ups – why do we do them?  Is there a purpose or are we just going through the motions.  Warming up prior to a strength training workout is crucial.  Not only are we “warming” up the body, we are going through a series of drills to help improve movement.  In order to be able to perform the requirements of your strength workout, you must have both flexibility and mobility.  You also need to reinforce correct movement patterns that, over time have become difficult to do. In some cases, we have even forgotten some of these primal patterns and the brain/body needs to be retrained.

Our warm ups serve several functions:

* muscle preparation with myofascial release using the foam roller
* raising of body core temperature
* increasing mobility through joints
* teaching/reinforcing correct technique with squat/lunge/deadlift patterns
* improving movement patterns in prepartion for the workout
* muscle activation

Our present warm up consists of:  foam rolling, T-spine windmill, band pull aparts, knee to wall (3 positions), single leg balance/hold, leg swings, tube walks, lateral squats/lunges, splits squats/walking lunges, deadlift reach.

The warm up consists of several mobility drills such as T-spine windmills, ankle mobility with knee to wall, leg swings, lateral squats and lunges, walking lunges, and single leg deadlift reach. Depending on your time training at VWP, your particular warm up may be a bit different. There are several progressions with some specific warm ups such as lateral squats/lunges and sagittal plane lunges.

As we walk through the warm up, picture yourself doing each exercise and see if there is anywhere you can make improvements. I feel the key with the warm up is to focus on each exercise as you progress through, ensuring that you are getting the most benefit out of each exercise. Each of these drills is in place for a specific reason. They are all there to improve/increase range of motion through joints, reinforce correct movement patterns, and to activate muscle groups so they are ready to work.  Okay?  Here we go:

Myofascial Release (Foam Rolling) – to help increase blood flow, help to release muscle tightness that restricts range of motion.

T-Spine Windmill – to increase range of motion through the upper back (thoracic spine) and shoulder.  You need to ensure the knee stays put on top of the foam/ball.  Move slowly through a full range, taking time to move your head and follow your hand with your eyes.

Band Pull Aparts – these are a great way to warm up the shoulders and also getting in some extra work for the upper back.  This is especially important if you sit at a desk/computer during the day.  It is crucial to do these correctly to get the full benefit.  Think about keeping your shoulder blades back and down.  The band should be “easy” to perform.  If you are struggling to keep your arms straight, the band is to big.  This is not about strength.

Knee to Wall – this warm up is done in 3 directions.  Front foot flat, heel must stay down.  Guide the knee inside the big toe for reps, straight on for reps and then outside the toe for reps.  You may feel a stretch in your calf muscle, but this drill is actually about the forward foot and loosening up the ankle joint.

Leg Swings – hip mobility is the purpose of this. Watch your posture, straight upper body. Keep the toes pointing straight ahead; do not let your foot rotate out.

Tube Walking – not so much a mobility drill but more specifically a strengthening exercise for gluteal muscles surrounding the hip. These muscles play a vital role in pelvic stability and this is the best exercise for targeting them specifically. Watch your upper body posture – stand tall and no tea pot!

Lateral squats – hip mobility work once again. Each one of the reps with the drill should be done with purpose. You want to push back and over the one side; sitting deep into the hip. Watch your upper body posture. This is one drill that most will want to rush through, but slow down and take the time to really work into your hips.

Split squat or lunges –  Straight upper body, shoulders back. Look straight ahead not down! Once again, don’t rush through these. Take them through a full range of motion ensuring that the back knee gets down to the floor. If you are in the “prisoner” postion with arms behind your head, make sure you aren’t pulling on your neck as you rise out of the lunge position. You also want to make sure your shoulders are down!

Single leg deadlift with reach – everyone’s favorite, right? This is a movement pattern reinforcer. We really want to work on the hip hinge movement. Try to keep the hip square to the floor as the leg rises. Reach out with the medicine ball but once again make sure that the shoulders stay down and you are not shrugging up around your ears.

That covers the total warm up that is used at the beginning of every session. Remember the warm up is preparing you for the strength workout to come. Take time to go through each movement with purpose. These exercises are not just the latest trendy thing off youtube.  Each one of them has been carefully selected to elicit a response from the body.  We all have mobility problems.   We all have flexibility problems.  We all can benefit from reinforcement of correct movement patterns and muscle activation work.

Next time you go through your warm up at the gym, think about each exercise and perform it with purpose. You will be well prepared and ready to kick some serious butt in the strength portion of your program!

Till next time,


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