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Stretching the Truth: Part 5
We have spent some time discussing the many methods of stretching, the effects of each type of method, and the potential benefits of their use. Now in our final installment we should discuss when to include the specific types of stretching into your warmup routine.
When preparing for an event, competition, or a workout, a thorough warmup is necessary to prevent the risk of injury and to achieve peak performance. When warming up prior to your training session, it is best to follow a particular sequence of events in order to best optimize your outcome.
First, it is best if necessary, to use the foam roller over any overactive areas that may be demonstrating tightness. Remember that using the foam roller is just a temporary measure that decreases muscle tension by stimulating muscle receptors that inhibit muscular tension. Of course if you have any chronically tight areas it is best to get examined by a licensed health care provider, but in a pinch the foam roller can temporarily inhibit muscle tension to allow the involved joints to be able to get into the right positions to absorb force and adapt to stress.
Next in your warmup it is appropriate to use active joint range of motion to prime the joints for more forceful ranges of motion that will be used during training. With active range of motion, you typically use bodyweight motions that are similar to, or use the same joints that you would be using during training. You need to make sure to use slow and deliberate movements that can prep the joints and pump synovial fluid for greater lubrication. It is common to pick 5 to 7 movements as part of this phase of your warmup, doing each movement for around 10 repetitions. The key with an active range of motion, it to only take the joint as far as it can go on its own. This is not a static stretch designed to increase range of motion, rather a deliberate muscle contraction creating a specific joint motion that will prepare the body for more intense exercise later in the training session. Typical active ranges of motion used during a warmup may include body weight squats, lunges, glute bridges, or hinging at the hip. These movements are meant to increase neuromuscular coordination, enhance motor control of the muscles involved, and create tissue plasticity by increasing core body temperatures.
The third phase of your warmup should consist of dynamic ranges of motion. This is where you use some of the same movement patterns that were utilized in your active warm up, and now use more forceful contractions with increased velocities. When using a dynamic warmup, it is best to pick 7 to 10 movements that are done in succession, and find an area that you can cover some distance.
These movements are usually quick, ballistic type movements that are done with high velocity. Although there are many movements that can be used as part of a dynamic warmup, common movements include lunging, skipping, high knees, butt kicks, and straight leg march. Although these are some common types of movements seen in dynamics warm ups, you can really use any movement that your imagination can come up with, but it is best to use movements and speeds that are similar to your upcoming activity. Dynamic warm ups are very effective in improving fiber type recruitment, enhancing intermuscular coordination, and increasing core body temperatures.
The final component of the warm up is sport or activity specific preparation. If you are doing a strength training session in the weight room, this could include doing 2 to 3 sets of warm up with the exercise you will be using during training. Once you have taken the joints through an active range of motion, and primed them for the speeds and velocities that are to be used during training, it is now appropriate to use the specific motor pattern that will be used during the execution of a lift. In most situations, it is best to use increasing volume and intensity of the lift until you get to the working weight you will be using during your workout. For example, if you were going to be squatting during your workout, you might do one set of 12 squats with 30% of your max weight, one set of 6 with 50% of your max weight, one set of 3 at 70% of your max weight, and then begin your working sets of your training session. This would not be done on every exercise that you use in your training session, but rather most likely only on the prime lift for that training session.
We know that a proper warmup can be the difference between a good training session, and potential injury. It is necessary to utilize all of the aforementioned methods to ensure proper preparedness for the intense training sessions in your program. To ensure proper effectiveness of your warmup, remember to use the sequence of active range of motion, dynamic range of motion, and then activity specific preparation. This sequence will ensure proper muscular tissue preparation, enhance neuromuscular motor activation, and properly lubricate the joints to be able to withstand the forces of a hard training session.
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