I think this is an important message to share, and it involves the traditional warm up, that we are known to do, or have evolved to. From the traditional run or do cardio for 5-10 minutes, to a more specific dynamic warm up before we train or play sport, I’d like to take it to another level. We need to have a specific goal in mind with each component of our training, and the warm up process is equally as important as the essential first step of the training system and foundation of program design.
The strategic corrective warm up.
The strategy, means you have a specific objective in your warm up routine. And not just to ‘warm up’, increase blood flow and circulation before exercise. For 99% of us, we have muscle imbalances. We are dominant left or right handed. At best, ambidextrous, where we may favor left and right sides equally and perform certain tasks, or play parts of a particular sport well with both sides. Either way, we will be dominant left or right handed to write, and perform majority of daily tasks. This in itself creates imbalance, stable and unstable differences, over compensation from standing, walking, running, throwing, writing, carrying bags, drinking coffee, holding anything and drive to name just a few. I’m sure you get the picture here.
Bottom line. We all have imbalances, and therefore prone to overcompensation, weakness, and risk of dysfunction, pain and injury. So we all need this approach, and we, I mean everyone.
The corrective warm is design to be just that. Corrective. An intelligent approach to warming up, active recovery and giving purpose to your warm up routine.
This also leads back to a previous article on randomness. If you are investing, time, money, energy into your training, you should make it as effective and valuable as possible right? And that starts with your warm up. So make it strategic, rather than random.
What Most of Us Need:
There are a couple of key physical issues that most of us need help with. In technical terms, they are called lower cross syndrome, and upper cross syndrome. A quick break down will help you understand which major muscles are weak, which muscles are tight, which then explains why we end up in pain and have poor posture. To keep things super simple, Ill break down both symptoms in an easy to understand format.
Lower Cross Syndrome: The result of tight hips / lower back and weak core / glutes. This results in an ‘anterior tilt’ of the pelvis which can be seen by the excessive curvature of the lower back.
Upper Cross Syndrome: The result of tight chest / pectoral muscles and upper traps and weak posterior chain / mid back muscles, resulting in the typical hunch back and rounded shoulder posture.
Warm Up with Purpose and a Specific Objective:
Have an outcome for your warm up exercise. Work with a health professional trainer, coach or physio to identify your weaknesses, muscle imbalances and develop a program. Choose 8-10 exercises. In our system, we follow this very simple, yet logical method.
Choose 2-3 exercises for each key component of your corrective warm up program.
Shoulders – Any exercise that helps to improve range of movement, activation of stabilizers and engage all shoulder joint muscles in a functional way. Majority of movements should be backward motion.
Hips – Any exercise that focuses to improve range of movement, motion, stability and muscle activation of the hip joint.
Core / glute activation – Switch on the central nervous system (CNS) and active they key muscles needed to stabilize, generate force and are the prime moves in major movements.
Movement preparation – Start to get the heart rate up, full body movement and move outside the square for multidirectional flowing movement.
Side note: If working on mobility and range of motion, still focus on posterior or backward movements, as opposed to forward. Forward motion will still be amplifying the tightness of pectoral muscles that we are trying to undo. So while movement in both directions is important, working on a higher ratio of backward motion to accelerate improvement, neural activation and correction of muscle imbalances and to optimize function.
Even if you are not sure where your imbalances lie, I can give you a pretty good idea of what most people need, and more than likely, you will benefit from this also.
A good example may be like this:
Shoulder – Shoulder circles, scap push-ups, arm rows
Hip – Leg swings, fire hydrants, spiderman
Activation – Single leg bridges, side planks, anterior / posterior tilt
Movement Prep: Butt kicks, high knees, lateral shuffles
Perform each exercise for 20-30 seconds and move on to the next.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. As Many Times As Possible (AMTAP):
You’re not going to undo ten or twenty years of poor mechanics and posture with a light three minute warm-up three times per week. It’s going to take time to reverse the muscle imbalances that have developed of years and years of poor ergonomics.
You’re going to have to do better than that. As they say, repetition is the mother of all learning, and your bad habits if years gone by are going to be unlearned. Then you have to develop new musculoskeletal adaptation to correct those imbalances.
This is what I have been doing with my clients, and now applied into our program design system for all coaches to implement with their clients. Once you have been screened, or told by your coach, trainer or physiotherapist your muscle weaknesses, make sure you have a corrective program developed and prescribed. This becomes your ‘essential’ warm up proud.
Better than that, this needs to be performed continuously for weeks ahead, and then ongoing. So in addition to your warm up, you can follow the same exercise after each major super set in your training program. I call this your active recovery set. You will probably need a little extra recovery time if you are working at any kind of intensity with your weight training. So use this time wisely and constructively to continue your corrective plan.
Repeat your corrective plan post workout also.
Now this is where we can take it to the next level.
To really make in impact, reach new levels of muscle balance and function, as well as moderate, reduce and eliminate pain, you need to be doing these exercises DAILY and if possible, multiple times per day.
So choose the exercise that you can do easily before you leave home, at the office, when you are anywhere and perform again at night. Think of them as your rituals. It’s just what you do. And more important it is what you NEED to do perform better, functional optimally and live a pain-free life.
Track your progress:
Like you hear me say with pretty much everything!! Track your progress. If you can get some initial baseline markers, whether it be a measurement of pain, level of function, flexibility, functional strength / stability or range of movement, then you have something you can track, monitor and measure your progress. What gets measured gets improve, and if you’re, not then, well, you’re just waiting your time.
Train and move with purpose.
If you are in pain, you can also follow my friend Mike Jones and join his awesome ‘Pain Free Me’ program at www.mikejonestoday.com/pain-free-me – he has some great tips and online program to follow to get totally pain free. As physical Therapist, Mike knows what he’s doing and will definitely get you started in the right direction.
Hope you enjoyed this, you can also check out a few different variations of strategic warm up plans over at the site, with videos and pdf handouts. Most of the exercise are appropriate and applicable to pretty much everyone. Start implementing them today.
Roll, Activate, Mobilize, Prepare