We all exercise for our own specific goals, but believe it or not, any exercise requires a lot of prep before getting started! Most of my clients are in the routine now of getting a light cardio warm-up with some dynamic stretching with my guidance.
But when we’re on our own, it’s tempting to eagerly jump into our workout routines to save time and get on with the rest of the day. Warming up just seems like such a waste of time.
I can tell you one thing, pulling a muscle or tearing a ligament is more of a waste of time. Now you’re on the couch resting, and missing out on your workout program and ultimately, losing motivation altogether. Let’s not take that risk!
Step 1: Foam Roll (SMR)
You walk into a gym and you see a pile of these pieces of foam lying around, typically near the mats, and you wonder what on earth kind of exercise tool is that? Do I stand on it? Do crunches on it?… Well, “foam rolling,” or a self-myofascial release (SMR), is a simple stretching technique that has been recently embraced throughout the fitness industry.
Foam rolling can be done with a variety of tools beyond foam rollers, such as small medicine balls, handheld rollers or other assisted devices as well.
Within minutes, the foam roller can:
- Deliver improvements in flexibility
- Speed up muscle recovery
- Improve movement efficiency
- Inhibit overactive muscles
- Reduce pain
The reason for foam rolling:
Poor posture and repetitive improper movements cause tissue trauma, inflammation, muscle spasms, tissue adhesions, and overall discomfort! (See image below)
The adhesions, or “knots” in the muscle, reduce the elasticity of the tissue and cause tightness, where stretching alone will only tighten them further. But foam rolling releases them — and bonus! — It’s a free massage.
Foam rolling should be done before static or dynamic stretching activities.
It will release the knots and improve the tissue’s ability to lengthen during stretching. Foam rolling can also be done as part of the cool-down to reduce muscle soreness.
I know you’re asking, “so how do I use one properly??” Here are the steps:
- Slowly roll the targeted area until the most tender spot is found.
- Hold on that spot while relaxing the targeted area until discomfort is reduced, between 30 and 90 seconds.
- During the exercises, it is important to maintain core stability. Use the drawing-in maneuver (pulling the navel in toward the spine) to maintain stability in the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.
- Take the time to experience the exercises and discover how slightly modifying positions or angles can target different areas of the muscle.
Foam rolling should be done on muscles that are identified as “overactive.”
I am trained to identify these by assessing your movement patterns. There are specific rolling techniques that I can recommend in order to alleviate these overactive muscles. Contact me so that I can asses your movement patterns and target your specific overactive muscles to alleviate pain and/or prevent injury.
Below are some basic foam rolling exercises:
Step 2: Dynamic Warm-up
Movement preparation, also referred to as a “dynamic warm-up,” involves moving in a variety of directions at different speeds to help activate the muscles you want to target. This gets the blood pumping and the nervous system ready for a physically demanding workout.
Performing a warm-up at the start of an exercise session:
- Increases blood circulation, which moves oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the involved muscles.
- Elevates body temperature so that muscles can rapidly lengthen and return to their starting shape. Pulled muscles are a result of improper warm-up.
- Turns on the sensory receptors of the central nervous system responsible for identifying position changes in the body, which is essential for determining the appropriate motor response.
- Elevates the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for providing energy during a workout.
- Rehearses movement patterns in slower, controlled tempos before adding resistance or moving at a fast speed.
An example of a basic full-body dynamic warm-up is as follows (contact me for demonstrations):
- Prisoner squat
- Front lunge with reach forward
- Side lunge with reach
- Turning lunge with reach
- Iron cross
- Leg swings front to back
- Leg swings side to side
- Standing medicine ball rotation
- Medicine ball lift and chop
- Russian twist on stability ball with medicine ball
- Push-up with rotation
Step 3: Static Stretching
Numerous studies show that stretching improves your overall performance during exercise. It’s obvious that having better flexibility improves the way your body is able to move. However, there is a time and place for stretching.
Studies have shown that shorter-duration stretching (30 seconds or less per muscle group) when done as part of a warm-up, may not negatively impact performance, especially if used by high performance athletes or well-trained fitness clients. So, a quick stretch of each muscle group is not a bad idea as part of the end of your warm-up.
However, studies on static stretching have found that stretching a muscle group for more than 90 seconds (or three stretches of 30 seconds each) caused performance impairments immediately after the stretching! This means that your body isn’t reaching it’s full potential during your workout because of the lengthy stretch. So save the yoga for later; it may be best post-workout. So all in all, be careful about how long you stretch for before an intense workout.
Contact me if you’d like me to help you create a customized warm-up and stretching routine for you to keep injuries at bay, and to improve your overall performance.