Injury prevention is a no-brainer. To really get the most out of a workout you have to be in tiptop shape. How can you expect to perform maximally and consistently if you are hurt?
Warming up before weight training has become more important to me now than ever before. In the past, I always practiced and recommended a three-phase approach to warming up, but as
life got busier, I shortened the process greatly. As a result I have paid the price. After years of heavy lifting (preceded by years of football), martial arts and numerous injuries,
sometimes I hurt!
I have consistently advocated a three-phase warm-up approach to trainees, which I counseled. I would even write this approach down for them and explain in great detail the virtues
of a thorough warmup. After presenting many people with this three-phase warmup, I have become increasingly convinced myself that it is an indispensable tool for workout preparation.
This point is particularly true now as I recover from various injuries and try to prevent more from happening.
This three-phase warmup is based on the mechanical and physiological/metabolic needs of the body to prepare it for weight training. Before your first working set you should put in a
solid 20 minutes of preparation for the war that is about to be waged on your body. The goals of that preparation should be injury prevention and maximum performance.
Many are guilty of complacency when it comes to a proper warmup, even me. Now that I am getting back to basics I urge you to do the same. Don't let an injury put you at a disadvantage
and delay your gains. By planning ahead and taking the time to adequately prepare for training you won't need to take time off.
Phase One - Cardio
What do we do with things that are cold and stiff? We heat them up so that they become pliable.
The first phase of warming up should be a 10-minute cardiovascular activity. Riding a bike, walking on the treadmill or using the stair climber will do. Elevating your body temperature
will make your muscles and connective tissues much more stretchable. Additionally, we need to stimulate various enzymatic processes within muscle cells to begin the process of
extracting oxygen and nutrients from the blood (and removing metabolic wastes) that are going to be required while training.
Phase Two - Stretching
The next phase involves doing a light to moderate stretch of the entire body. This movement will help to prevent injury and ensure you've done all you can to give your workout 100
Stretching furthers the process that you began in phase one, by aiding blood flow and increasing nutrient and oxygen delivery into the muscles you're training. As well, muscles are
prepared to stretch and contract.
Although we may be contracting our biceps' muscles against a weight while curling, many other muscles are involved. From your ankle to your shoulder, your muscles are tensed to stabilize
your body - your triceps stretch while your biceps contract and vice versa; your shoulders contract and adjust as you contract and stretch throughout the movement; and so forth with the
Have you ever had your back cramp up while benching? Ever pull a neck muscle training back? Or experienced a strained hamstring while doing an exercise for another bodypart? If you
answered yes, stretching can go a long way to preventing further problems in all of these areas.
The less sufferings we have the more gut-busting workouts we can log to stimulate growth. In a sense, injury prevention is anticatabolic. Stretching will also aid in recovery. The quicker
and more thorough your recovery, the larger and stronger you become.
While doing martial arts a few years ago I pulled my groin; it was a hindrance for at least six weeks. My instructor Big Jim recommended that I stretch it. I thought, 'That is the last
thing I need right now.' Since Big Jim was experienced in the martial arts, I went ahead and began to stretch it. In a little while it healed right up.
When muscles get injured from weight training they need maximum blood flow and nutrient delivery to restore themselves to good condition. Likewise, we need to pull those muscle fibers
apart to facilitate a reduction in swelling, and to get the oxygen and nutrients they need for maximum recovery.
Another bonus of stretching is increased flexibility that leads to a greater range of motion (ROM) on our lifts. The greater the ROM, the greater the stretch of the targeted muscle
group - leading to an increased recruitment of motor units. Recruiting more motor units leads to a stronger contraction and ultimately an enhanced growth stimulus.
Similarly, stretching may allow for greater muscle growth potential by stretching the sheaths around the muscle fibers; theoretically, providing more room for growth. John Parrillo made
this concept famous.
When stretching start with your calves and work your way up. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds followed by a three-to-five-second rest, then repeat two more times for a total of three
Increase the tension on each stretch. Stretch each and every muscle group and joint. I guarantee you'll feel much better going into your workout.
Phase Three - Warmup Sets
The third phase is progressive, submaximal warmup sets for each exercise. For example, if your working set is going to be with a weight of 315 pounds then do 2 or 3 sets ranging from 135
to 275 pounds before using the working weight, but completed in the same rep range as your working set.
You accomplish four things by doing warmup sets
1) You continue the stretching process by contracting and stretching against resistance using the actual movement that you will use for your working set.
2) The metabolic process required for anaerobic muscular contraction is set into motion to provide ATP for muscular contraction, oxygen and nutrient delivery to the working muscles and
3) Neurologically, you activate more motor units with each warmup set to participate in the heavier working set weight.
4) You mentally rehearse for the actual working set.
Think About This Analogy
While working as a security guard on commercial sets a few times, I was amazed to see that the setup and preparation takes much longer than the actual shoot. The crew spends about 12 hours,
from early morning to late afternoon, setting up the stage. The director then comes in around 6 p.m. and directs the filming segment, which only lasts a couple of hours. Later on that same
evening, around 8 p.m., the crew tears down the set. A set that took the better part of a day will end up being dismantled after only a couple of hours of use. But to get the job done that's
what is required.
To get the most out of your workout sessions make sure you take the necessary precautions beforehand. Warming up sets the stage for your body to handle the main strenuous action later on.
To maximize your performance prepare first.
As a drug-free trainee, you can't afford to have unplanned layoffs or spend part of the year recovering from injuries. This three-phase warm-up program will lead to more effective growth
stimulation, increased recovery and growth potential, not to mention more time to do all those, while not being injured. To get the most out of your training consider warmups as just one
more tool for your belt.