Today’s topic may not be all that exciting, BUT the warm up can actually make or break the whole workout and limit gainz, as I found out myself in a rather painful way.
Not to bore with my sob story, but it might explain where I am coming from. I am what you would call a hard gainer and struggled for years with building quality mass. I would either get strong and fat or injured, or both. As for programs, you name it. I tried them all: 5×5 HIT, HST, volume, 2 a days, etc.
In short, my results were abysmal until I found out what I was doing wrong: I was training too long, not intense enough, and lastly, I was never ready to train. Neither mentally, nor physically. I simply did everything wrong, from pre workout nutrition, to stretching, to picking warm-up exercises, to warm up weights, to hydration levels…
The term “warm up” is wrong; “getting warm” is the least of your worries. You should be getting ready to train at your max capacity at that very moment within your actual range of motion.
Here is what usually happens: 10 min stretching (chatting with lifting buddy), which makes you weaker (more on that later), 10 minutes on a treadmill, and some light sets to get the blood going.
While this is not terrible, it will by no means put you into awesomeness mode for a great workout.
A good warm up will:
- create length in the muscle
- and optimize the force-couple relationships
- in order to have a high-performance workout
- and to stay injury free
How to go about it? I prefer a three pronged approach
1. Get rid of trigger points
This is done by foam rolling in order to get an active release and in turn, your body will be able move as it needs to. Yes, it hurts but surgery and rehab will hurt much more. Here are the target muscles:
- Front delts
- Glute minors
Five to ten minutes rolling should be sufficient.
2. Create length in the target muscle
Next item on the agenda: in order to prepare the target muscle, train its antagonist muscle first. This creates length in the target muscle in the ways of dynamic stretching. The often practiced static stretching weakens you by about 30%, while increasing the risk of an injury. Some examples of target muscles and the exercises that would hit their antagonists:
- Chest: bent over rows or light lat pull downs
- Back: push ups
- Biceps: triceps press downs
- Triceps: cable curls
- Hamstrings: single leg press
- Quadriceps: leg curls
3. Maximize neural output, aka get your central nervous system ready
Before starting any workout, perform one exercise that sets an optimal mind-muscle connection with your target muscle. Here are my favorite exercises for this particular task:
- Chest: floor flyes on the cable or flex push ups, where you attempt to push the floor together
- Back: flex dead lifts, basically a partial deadlift, where you assume standing relaxed pose, thereby flexing the lats. An alternate would be the stiff arm pull down with a hold in the bottom position
- Shoulders: either a light clean and press or seated (on floor, not bench) shoulder press
- Quadriceps: sissy squats
- Hamstrings: single leg presses with a downward intention
- Triceps : kickbacks at the cable, bottom third of the motion only
- Biceps: slow underhanded pull ups
Once you are done with those exercises you can go into your first work set.
This covers the training part of the warm up; the treadmill part you can keep it, as it won’t do any harm. Ten minutes will suffice though.
And just in case you missed the breaking news on CNN, yours truly made this months issue of Muscle and Fitness! Yay!