The warm-up is the most overlooked stage in fitness. Very few athletes take the time to prepare themselves for the damage they are about to inflict and then wonder why they have lingering injuries and trigger spots in their range of motion. The purpose of a warm-up is to lubricate the joints, increase body temperature, increase heart rate, loosen up the tendons and ligaments, and focus the mind. All of these benefits can easily be achieved in a five to ten minute routine (depending in the intensity of the training that day).
I am personally guilty of this as well. Sometimes I try to get in a quick workout in between clients so I used to skip the warm-up and jump straight into training. After doing this a couple times I began to feel small aches and pains throughout various joints. Through training, Jiu-Jitsu, and working out as often as possible, I have a tendency to red line my system throughout the week, so I did not allow this to become a habit. I decided to put more attention on the warm-up and less on the workout. Instead of thirty minutes of work, I put in a ten minute warm-up and twenty minutes of work. If you have ever trained with me you'll know that I love kettlebell circuits. They are the perfect little soul crushers for the busy professional. I say soul crusher because a 20kg kettlebell will make you want to curl up in the fetal position very quickly. Their small, but damn their mean. This is what I used for my experiment.
I quickly found that I was able to get in a great workout in a shorter time frame. The biggest difference was that my recovery between rounds was cut almost in half and I did not feel as sluggish. I was also pleased to find that my heart rate maintained a level pattern from one exercise to he next. This is a big plus because heart rate load and recovery is a large indicator of true fitness. This is a simplified version of the stress test used by cardiologist.
So, is there a specific warm-up routine I should use? Not really. Every body is different and every training session is different. My warm-up adds attention to my knees and shoulders because of previous injuries and I suggest tailoring warm-ups to those details. One cookie cutter routine I would suggest is the simple mobility warm-up I have posted below. I prefer to do a mobility warm-up to cover all the basics and listen to my body as I move. This can be a great way to find out what muscle are tight and what joints are feeling stiff that day. Sometimes I'll have to change my workout because I want to allow the issue to heal a little longer or I’ll add extra rest in the routine to reduce risk of injury.
Static stretching can also be used, but some aerobic work must be done after to increase body temperature and heart rate. Yes there have been a couple studies showing that static stretching has a negative effect on strength, but that was only proven when stretching for more than 60 seconds immediately before explosive movements. During a warm-up stretches should be limited to about 20 to 30 seconds and followed by some aerobic exercises as mentioned earlier.
I have always been a true fan of fitness. I enjoy every aspect of lifestyle I have chosen from traditional weight training to unconventional training to yoga. I know this goes against many people’s perspective about serving two masters, but they're all one in the same. One can see the light in any discipline. The fastest way to find the true self and discover mindfulness is to fire up the dopamine receptors and make the body and mind separate.
While Yogis talk about meditation and serenity, weight lifters talk about therapy and peace from the outside world. These are actually very similar concepts. Everyone has their happy place. That one place that they go to unwind, disappear and fix the damage done by interacting with society. It is always ideal to start off a yoga session with a brief meditation to release the negative energy and bring one's focus to the task at hand. This is usually followed by a breathing exercise known as pranayama. The sole focus is on the breath. During this time the only concept that matters in this world is breathe in, hold, breathe out. Everything else fades away. This leads the way into a smooth transitional exercise routine. Throughout each pose, or asana, the focus is on elongating and relaxing the muscles through the slow exhale. The pose duration can be timed by a set number of breathe cycles instead of staring at a clock.
On the other side of the coin we have the meatheads. These guys kick off their worldly escape with a swig of water and a hefty scoop of their favorite pre workout. While waiting for that to jump start the blood flow they scroll through the iPod and find their Destruction Mix. Once the earbuds go in and bass drops, the world fades away. The only truth they need is stamped on the plates. In the words of Henry Rollins, “........Friends may come and go, but two hundred pounds is always two pounds.” Once the training begins the focus is zeroed into the body. The lifter's concentration is on the squeeze of every muscle fiber to increase tension and promote growth. Breathing techniques are not used for purpose of duration, but play a major role in the production of force. The “Power Breath” increases internal pressure to stabilize the body and force blood into the muscles. This is performed by inhaling during the unloading phase of the lift and forcibly exhaling during the loaded phase.
Another shared aspect is the techniques that are essential to their respective disciplines. Yogis understand their asanas. Each limb of the body must be in the correct posture for the intended effect to take place. True Yogis have no problem finding this spot with ease and accuracy. They can also see the difference between the ones who know what they're doing and those who only think they do. The same rings true for the lifters. But they're not as nice about it. They might even have a quick chuckle at the noob's expense before going back to work. This is why it is a good idea to find a trainer. Everyone knows that weight training can be dangerous without proper technique and an understanding of how the movement is preformed. Yoga is relatively safe even if you do not understand the poses, but you will not get the full benefits without the in depth knowledge known only to the Yogis.
Every aspect of fitness is connected in some way, shape, or form. Although they are not for everyone, don't shy away from trying new things. Step out of your comfort zone. I was an avid lifter for years before stepping into a yoga studio and it kicked my ass. It was great! I still practice yoga occasionally and feel great after every session.
ACSM Certified Fitness Professional