What do you do as a warm up before you begin an exercise routine? A light jog on the tread mill? A few stretches which probably includes bending over a few times, stretching the tricep and maybe bending your fingers back to stretch the fore arm? Maybe you are one of those people who don’t do anything at all besides a few reps of bench press? Perhaps, and hopefully, you treat your warm up like a mini workout that includes both stretches and warming up the body slowly but methodically preparing it for the hell you’re about to put it through.
Stretching vs Mobility
Most people, and six months ago Lyell, believe(d) stretching is just something you do for a few minutes to help prevent injury. The idea of “mobility” never even crossed our minds. Well let me tell you, though stretching is important, mobility is way more important to someone who wants to get the most out of their workouts. Stretching isn’t necessarily mobility and mobility isn’t exactly flexibility. All these terms work together but they have their own purpose. For instance, someone who is mobile has the ability to move freely and that has nothing to do with flexibility. Let me have an expert explain it a little better: From www.mobilitywod.com
Stretching only focuses on lengthening short and tight muscles. Mobilization, on the other hand, is a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems.
Mobilization will allow for better range of motion and will help speed up recovery. For instance, if you have tight hips, hams, Achilles and glutes your lower body exercises will struggle. Subsequently, you won’t be able to get in that deep squat position and other muscles will take the brunt of your poor flexibility which will eventually lead to injury. This could also effect everything you do from bending over to pick up your child or just simply working in the yard. Another example is shoulder mobility. Yes the muscles of the shoulder should be “loose” but what about the rotator cuff, the tendons and ligaments surrounding the shoulder joint? What are you doing to prepare them for work? You can seriously injury your shoulder if you press too hard without having proper mobility in that area.
So think Mobility not just stretching or better yet think about them both.
What Your Warm Up Should Look Like
First off you should always plan ahead. Before starting your your warmup think about what exercises your workout will include. If you are about to workout the upper body, your warm up should include some upper body movements but not ones that would tire them out. For instance, do a 3 sets of 5-10 pushups, dips and pulls ups not 3 sets of 15. The idea is to prepare them not work them. Your warm up should also include lower body, some cardio, stretching and mobility work. My goal is by the time I”m done with my warm up my body, from head to toe, should be ready for anything.
Example of my Warm-Up. Three rounds with each round consisting of 3-4 sets with 2-4 movements of: stretches, some cardio and mobility work. Videos posted below.
Round 1- 100 Single-unders (jump rope), 30 seconds Toe on wall calf stretch (both feet) x 3 sets
Round 2- Shoulder external rotation work (about 45 seconds) , Hip Opener Stretch (about a minute for each leg), 7 knees to elbows or sit ups x3 sets
Round 3- sit in bottom squat position (1 minute), Couch stretch (3o seconds each side) 3 sets
Round 4 (optional. If you have tight Ham like me you’ll want to do this round) Hamstring stretch, 5 slow air squats, legs crossed bentover hamstring stretch 3 sets
Here’s the video for the Hip Opener Stretch
Video for “toe on wall” (scroll to about the 3 minute mark but the entire video is good info)
Video for the “couch stretch” (scroll to the 2 minute mark)
Video for “sit in bottom squat”
Video for “knees to elbows”
Video for “shoulder internal and external”
Video for “Ham Stretch”
As you can see my warm up doesn’t contain much cardio or any movements like pushups or dips. Why? Well my workouts typically work my cardiovascular system and my biggest problem is mobility and flexibility. So my warm up focuses on my weaknesses not my strengths. If you want to throw in a 400 or 800 meter run in the beginning instead of jump rope go for it. That certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea. You could also interchange most of the movements above depending on your workout for that day. The one thing you will notice is the focus on the entire body and preparing it for work. It doesn’t really matter what my workout will be, my body will be ready for anything I throw at and that my friends is the whole idea.