Saturday, October 25, 2008
There is a thread on the Fitness forum about doing a warm up before strength training and it gave me the idea to write out a detailed description of how I warm up. I do about 3-4 heavy weights workouts per week and each of them starts with this warm up:
1. 15 minute brisk walk. I do this primarily because that's how far the gym is from my house and office, so no matter where I'm coming from, I have to do this!
2. 10 minutes dynamic stretching. I try to stretch my whole body but I do tend to focus on the muscles that I'm going to be working that day.
3. Movement warm-up. I do 3 sets of 3 exercises (10 reps per set) to initiate a full range of motion through my major joints. I do a circuit of vertical chops, cross-body chops, and cross-body rotations with a relatively light weight (just an 8-lb dumbbell in my case). The idea is not to build strength, but to get the body moving weight across its joints. I strive for fluidity of movement rather than jerky or momentum-powered movements.
4. Stability warm-up. I do 3 sets of 3 exercises (10 reps per set) to warm up my core muscles. I do planks, back extensions, and bridges. This activates the core of my body where my strength and power originate so that I can take full advantage of my exercises in my workout.
5. Balance warm-up. I do 2 sets of 3 exercises (10 reps per set and then a 20 second hold at the end) to bring my body into balance. Bodyweight split squats, hip flexor lunges, and bend & reach with weight (all of these are on one leg). Doing exercises on one leg is challenging because it requires physical and mental focus.
6. Deep squat progression. (If I'm doing lower body that day.) This is a training exercise in 5 parts to train the body to do a proper full squat, it uses body weight only. The progression is: standing, touch your toes; then drop into a full squat with calves resting on thighs; then reach one hand to the ceiling, hold, and switch arms; then reach both hands to the ceiling, hold; then with both hands raised, push out of the squat. It's used to train athletes to approach the full squat as a natural body movement. The author of the book "Athletic Body in Balance" which describes it and uses great illustrations, if anyone is interested, says "a child does not learn to squat from the top down -- in other words, he does not suddenly make a conscious decision one day to squat. Actually, he is squatting one day and makes a conscious decision to stand. Squatting precedes standing in the developmental sequence. This is the way a child's brain learns to use the body as the child develops movement patterns. Therefore, a child is probably crawling, rocks back into a squatting position with the back completely relaxed and the hips completely flexed, and stands when he has enough hip strength." Basically the "full squat progression" re-teaches this movement experience to an adult.
Only after ALL of the above, I move onto strength exercises (the actual workout), which these days is usually based around two muscle groups (like legs and shoulders; or chest and back), and usually consists of about 12 exercises (I usually do 3 sets of 6 reps, although I'll often start with a warmup set with low weight; and if I'm doing bodyweight exercises like pushups or pullups, I will just go to the limit of my endurance, whatever that may be).
At the end I do static stretching and a 15 minute brisk walk to cool down.
I hope this at least illustrates that to me, warming up properly is essential to a good, safe, and effective strength-building workout.