I really love CrossFit and I go to the gym to lift weights but as the Melbourne winter fully sets in it gets harder and harder for me to get up and get going in the morning. It is however now more important than ever to warm up appropriately before weightlifting, hitting a WOD (Workout of the Day) or performing any other kinds of physical activity.
Most professional athletes will engage in some form of warm up prior to a workout, however there has been many times that I have seen people in a training environment who go straight in to lifting heavy weights. it is important to understand the reasons why we do so and to apply this knowledge to ensure that we are warming up in a way that is appropriate and effective for us as a person and for the activity we are about to undergo.
So why should I warm up ????
Well these are some of the benefits that may sway you in to getting out of bed 15 minutes earlier.
Potential decreased risk of injury
Whilst studies on this topic can be contradictory, the weight of evidence seems to suggest that performing an appropriate warm up can help to decrease risk of non-impact injuries. Warming up effectively increases the temperature of the muscle tissue which leads to the muscle becoming more pliable
Potential improved performance
A well-executed warm increases blood flow to the muscles of the body which allows the haemoglobin in the blood (our oxygen carrying protein) to release its oxygen much more easily. Increased blood + increased oxygen = increased performance!
Improved neural efficiency
Increasing temperature in the muscles through a warm up also increases the rate of nerve transmission meaning the nerves can fire quicker and so muscles can contract/relax much faster
A good warm up gives the athlete time to reflect on the task at hand and to perform visualisation exercises, or more importantly time to prepare their mind for the hurt associated with taking part in Fran (this a name of a famous CrossFit workout that pretty much destroys even the toughest) on a cold Monday night!
So now that you understand the main reasons for engaging in a warm up, what are some of the things you should be looking out for to include as part of our warm up routine?
My top tips for an effective warm up
- Your warm up should last from somewhere between 10-20 minutes, however some athletes may feel a longer warm up is needed.
- Start with a low intensity cardiovascular exercise. This is a perfect way to begin raising our muscle temperature – activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, rowing and skipping
- Dynamic movements/stretches can be very effective at preparing the muscles, joints and nervous system for activity – gentle movements like multidirectional lunges, squats, bear crawl, push-ups and spine rotations help to warm the muscles and mobilise the movements in a way that can mimic the activity we are about to perform (brownie points for the nervous system!)
- Breakdown the prescribed movement into components or perform the whole movement unloaded, this well help to further warm the body up and also prepare our nervous system and movements patterns to work effectively during our workout – an example would be breaking a clean and jerk into a deadlift portion, a shrug portion, an overhead press portion, a front squat portion and then moving to more explosive actions such as a hang power clean, hang clean, clean, clean and jerk (all with an unloaded bar before increasing the weights appropriately)
- To static stretch or not to static stretch? Whilst for years many of us have engaged in weird and wonderful static stretches prior to exercise studies suggest that static stretching prior to exercise can lead to some decreases in muscle strength, not particularly useful when engaging in a strength activity! However the studies can be contradictory and there doesn’t seem to be too much evidence in favour of or against. Many opt for dynamic stretching with the added bonus of the nervous system component however some athletes feel like static stretching is more beneficial for them and feel better for it, if this is the case then there is value in doing that!
What keeps me motivated and training through winter is the fact that physical exercise wards off all the evil lurking germs and viruses and strengthens my immune system. I also really enjoy the energy kick I get from my happy endorphins after a good training session. So, hope to see you out there at CrossFit or in the gym. Chris Smith Osteopath
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