Russian baby makers, the world’s greatest stretch, glute bridges, bear crawls, hollow bodies into supermans and back into hollow bodies… What’s the point in rolling around on the floor before we can get into the workout?
At Axistence Athletics in southeast Denver, we put a huge emphasis on the warm-up. It's carefully programmed for each day's workout, from Olympic lifting to intensity training. In fact, sometimes it looks like the warm-up is longer than the workout… And some days that may be accurate. But why?
The #1 Goal of the warm-up is injury prevention. Since our number one goal at Axistence is to DO NO HARM, if you don’t have time to warm-up then you don’t have time to work out. But it also means you get better results from the real workout. Here’s why we put such an emphasis on warming up.
Want to know more? Listen to Ryan's Why Should I Warm Up? Podcast.
#1. Joint lubrication.
Think about your body as a high performance racecar; the warm-up is essentially a fresh oil change before every workout.
Most of our joints are lubricated with a thick viscous substance known as synovial fluid. By warming up and getting our joints to move through a full range of motion, this fluid helps reduce friction, absorb shock and facilitate nutrient transportation in and out of the surrounding cartilage.
Whether it’s jumping on a box or putting a barbell overhead, this fluid acts as a buffer between your bones and will help protect your joints.
"By activating inactive muscles via the warm-up, we maximize the effectiveness of every exercise we do."
#2. Activation of inactive muscles.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans have horrific posture for most of the day. If you want to maximize your time in the training center, then we need to loosen what’s tight and strengthen what’s weak.
For example, most of us sit way too much, and get what we like to call glute amnesia. Your hips are so tight that the muscles in your butt don’t function like they should.
If squats are on the docket and you’ve been sitting at a desk for 6 hours, chances are that your hip flexors are on and your glutes are off. By opening your hips with an instep stretch and then doing a lateral band walk, the idea is that we can open the hips and get the glutes firing before we train them. By activating inactive muscles via the warm-up, we maximize the effectiveness of every exercise we do.
#3. Preparing to ramp up intensity, safely.
Research shows that when humans increase the intensity of physical exertion, there’s an amazing cascade of positive hormonal effects. But WTF do they mean by intensity?
Back in 2009, Pat Sherwood defined intensity as the average power output of a workout. For our purposes, that’s a pretty solid definition. Thus we can increase intensity by increasing volume, increasing weight, decreasing rest or any combination of these.
People love intensity, that’s for sure! You’ve seen the before and after pictures of P90X, Insanity, CrossFit, etc. right? It’s no wonder that people want to kick their own asses in the gym. But safely upping your intensity gets dicey due to a lack of proper preparation.
Intensity should ONLY be increased once you’ve got the technique down. We shouldn’t expect to apply the intensity principle to every exercise on day one. For instance, before we perform movements like snatches and cleans, we’ll practice those moves with a PVC pipe or an unloaded barbell to grease the groove of those neural pathways and ensure they’re firing efficiently.
You are NOT a Tesla…
Let’s go back to the racecar metaphor. Imagine leaving your vehicle in the garage for six months. Now jump in and floor the gas pedal as hard as you can! It might work...if it’s a Tesla… Unfortunately, you are NOT a Tesla.
That’s not a reflection of your strength or dedication – it’s just not how the human machine works. If you plan on running your engine at top speeds, perhaps you should go around the track once or twice. When properly applied, intensity gets such great results, but to keep from getting hurt, you have to be smart about how you apply it to your workout. The warm-up is crucial to ensure that your technique is solid.
In the end, you’re all adults and warming up is a choice. But if you want to perform optimally on your adventures, then you need to get the most out of training. If you want to optimize your training, warm up. Remember, you may hurt yourself on your next wild adventure, but you shouldn’t hurt yourself training for your adventure.
Now let’s all do some Russian Baby Makers!