What's a warm up ... and why do I need one?

By Nick Lynch, certified personal trainer
 
Chairs hate me. Any time I sit for more than 30 minutes at the computer, in the car, or even at home on the couch, I can feel myself folding up into a little bundled ball of a person. This is a problem. Being a bundled up ball of a person prevents me from doing the active things that make me happy.
 
Muscles and joints that get sticky from sitting all day just don’t move well, and muscles and joints that don’t move well aren’t going to give you a very good return on your efforts. So what can you do about it? For many, a thoughtful and well-organized warm up can not only help massively in the short-term (when we’re at the gym or an athletic setting), but long-term as well (when we’re at home, doing yard work, or even carrying groceries from the car to the house).
 
… and a warm up looks like what exactly?
A good warm-up is made up of three things:
1. Something that literally gets us warm. (walking, jump rope, etc.)
2. Some sort of soft tissue manipulation like foam rolling or stretching (both of those together works best)
3. Targeted mobility movements for where we lack in range of motion or to help prepare us for a specific activity
 
So, for example, we arrive at the gym, warm-up our jaw muscles as we chat with a few people on the way to the locker room, get dressed and go hop on a treadmill. All we really care about is increasing our core tissue temperature, and it’s not going to take a lot to do that. We’re warming up, not running a marathon. Just a few minutes at a slight incline and a normal walking pace should do fine.
 
After that, go grab a foam roller. It’s a great way to “unstick” yourself prior to your workout, and you’ll feel much better afterwards.
 
Here are a few easy foam rolling exercises to try on your own. With each of the foam roller exercises, use your body weight to search out areas that feel “tight.” Let your weight settle onto those areas, and do your best to breathe deeply and relax.
 

IT Band
IT Band

 

Adductors
Adductors

 

upper back
Upper Back

 

calves
Calves

 

Glutes
Glutes

The foam rolling will grant you a window of improved flexibility and mobility, so improve upon that window with some “stretching-esque” movements. Rather than getting into a stretched position and holding it, move in and out of the given position, working to push just a little farther each time.

Using the mobility movements below in conjunction with the foam rolling exercises should yield some nice improvements in the tightness we feel in our hips, shoulders, legs, and back. Give it a try!       

downward
Downward Dog
Take the classic down dog yoga pose and perform “reps” with it. Starting in a push-up position, work to keep your back flat and your arms and legs as straight as possible. Slowly start to reach your hips up and back towards the ceiling, until your body resembles an inverted “V.” At the top of the movement, you should experience a stretch through your upper back, our calves, and possibly the back of your legs as well. Return to the starting position and repeat 10-12 times.
 
Alternating
Alternating Groiners
Another stolen yoga pose, you’ll also be doing this for repetitions instead of holding the position for a set period of time. Just like everything else, we’ll be start in a push-up position. From there, slide one knee between your hands on the ground, letting the outside of the knee, leg, and hip come to a rest on the floor underneath your body. Allow your weight to settle back into your hip, and find the stretch in the back of your glute. Hold for a second or two and then return to the top. Repeat for 6-8 repetitions on each side.
 
groiner
Alternating Pigeons
Starting in a push-up position, take a large step with one foot, up and out towards the hand on the same side. Slowly lower your back knee to the floor, press your hips towards to ground, and raise your chest to the ceiling. This should create a stretching sensation in the back of your forward leg and hip. Hold for 2 seconds or just enough time to settle into the stretch, and then return to the top position. Alternate between sides for 6-8 repetitions on each leg.

There you have it! Now you’re ready to move mountains (or the dog), do your best Forrest Gump impression (or walk to 7-11), or really anything else you could want out of your workout.

To make an appointment with a personal trainer at your club and start adding these tools to your repertoire, click below:

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