When most people “warm-up” it consists of a light jog on the treadmill, a slow pedal on the bike, and maybe a couple of stretches from High School PE class. While on the right track in trying to raise core temperature and stretch out otherwise tight muscles, this does nothing to excite the central nervous system or prepare the body for the multidirectional movement necessary to train the body at high level. In actuality, the static stretching associated with most people’s warm-ups is doing the exact opposite by putting the body in a relaxed state and diminishing the excitability of the nervous systems.
An effective “warm-up” should take at least 15-20 minutes (especially if you are injury prone or de-conditioned), and consist of moving the body in various planes of motion (forward, backward, lateral, rotational, contralateral) in a dynamic fashion through walking, crawling, marching, skipping, and running, which tells the body that “it’s time to work”. Further, these dynamic movements should hit all major muscle complexes that require increased mobility to function properly (examples include the ankles, hips, thoracic spine, and shoulder joint). Prior to these dynamic movements, you should take several minutes and prepare the tissue through foam rolling tight areas, which will decrease the amount of “knots” and joint restrictions that you have in your body. This will allow you to achieve better range of motion during your movement preparation exercise and workout.
As with your movement preparation exercises, your tissue preparation should consist of major muscles groups such as the upper and low legs, glutes, thoracic spine, lats, and chest. It is always recommended to begin with a standard foam roller before moving on to more complex tissue preparation devices such as lacrosse ball or rollers with a harder surface.
Guidelines for Tissue Preparation on Foam Roller (5-6 minutes):
- Find a roller with the appropriate amount of stiffness
- Gently roll back and forth on the given area until you find a “tender” spot. Remain on that area and add gentle pressure until you feel relief in the affected area (this may take several seconds)
- Make sure to roll the full length of the muscle
- Tender spots will cause a mild discomfort, but should not cause excruciating pain (if so lighten up the pressure you are placing on the tender spot.
Guidelines for Movement Preparation (10-15 minutes)
- Make sure to due 5-6 minutes of tissue preparation prior to beginning.
- Movements should be multiplanar including lateral, rotational and contralateral (opposite arm opposite leg)
- Each movement should be for 6-8 reps or 10-15 yards
- As your body becomes more in tune with the movement, progress to more dynamic functions such as crawling, marching, skipping, running or jumping.
- Be mindful that the purpose is to prepare, not destroy, your body, so keep the intensity of each movement between 75-85 % and practice smooth transitions and full range of motion.