Although it can be very beneficial, heavy lifting puts a huge stress on the body. To prevent injury and get the most out of every workout, it's critical to warm up. Here are some techniques to help you maximize your pre-workout routine.
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, which is essentially a massage you perform on yourself. It's quite simple—you use your body weight to apply pressure to your muscles as you roll certain areas with a dense foam cylinder. It's a good way to increase blood flow and get some core activation while rolling around on the floor.
Areas where athletes find the most "knots" include the upper back, upper glutes, calves, quads and lats.
Roll over each area until you feel some of the tightness fade. If you find a spot that is particularly tender or sore, keep the pressure there for a few seconds until the discomfort subsides.
Joint mobility is very important to your success in the weight room. You need it to get the most out of strength training movements, so you should assess it during your warm-up.
Your hips, shoulders, ankles and upper back are key areas for joint mobilization. You should expose them to a full range of motion before loading up a barbell. That way, you'll be ready to handle full range of motion when under load, decreasing the likelihood of injury.
Be specific to the movements you plan to perform that day. If you plan to Squat during a particular workout, perform a set or two of Goblet Squats with a pause at the bottom to open your hips and ankles and reinforce proper form. Or, if you are planning heavy sets of Bench Presses or Military Presses, place more emphasis on shoulder mobility during your warm-up. You might perform some lightly loaded Face Pulls prior to your pressing exercises.
It's also important to address stability during the warm-up. This is done effectively through low-load, high-tension activities, such as bodyweight isometric exercises. Planks, Wall Sits, Isometric Lunges, Band Pull-Aparts and Isometric Push-Ups (in the bottom position) are all effective options for building some tension prior to heavy lifting. The better you learn to consciously create large amounts of tension through your muscles, the more stability and stiffness you'll be able to create before attempting a near max lift.
That stiffness and rigidity is going to protect you from a technical breakdown, which will in turn reduce your chance of injury and likely lead to more weight on the bar.
- Foam rolling (5-6 minutes)
- Mobility (5-6 minutes)
- Stability exercise (3-5 minutes)
- Specific warm-up sets (as many as needed)
As shown, the general warm-up should take no longer than 15 minutes. Start with soft-tissue work (foam rolling), then mobilize any joints that are lacking full range of motion. Next, create stability with bodyweight isometrics. Finally, begin multiple warm-up sets on your primary lift to prepare your nervous system for the real heavy sets.
Stick to these guidelines and you'll get stronger and avoid injuries.
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