Don’t Underestimate The Importance of a Proper Warm-up

Looking forward to the reward of a long healthy lifeAll too often, people forgo a proper warm-up and don’t bother to prepare their bodies for exercise. If you intend to practice a series of intense movements that challenge your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments you’d better ease them into it or you’ll pay the price!
While a simple walk on the treadmill might be a fine warm-up before a brisk three-mile walk, it’s not enough if you plan to subject your body to a strenuous weight training session.  And that’s because after many years of abusing our bodies with sports, sitting for long periods, and exercising incorrectly, we’ve developed extremely restricted movements. These movement restrictions are accompanied by muscular imbalances, and the combination of the two can be very destructive to the body.
If, like many of the people I come across, you don’t move well and you attempt to throw a challenging exercise at your body, especially with added resistance, you’ll likely do more harm than good.  This can be prevented with proper preparation for the exercise.
For instance, if you do a lot of sitting or driving or you suffer from chronic lower back pain, there’s a good chance that you have a considerable amount of restriction in your hips.  Having movement restrictions at the hip can prevent you from being able to perform an exercise like the squat properly.  When the body does not move well through a full range of motion, it’s likely that the appropriate muscles will not be recruited–contract at the right time–to perform the exercise with good form.  When the human body compensates and muscles don’t contract in proper sequence, at the proper rate (or at all) pain and/or injury can be in the offing.
There are a number of ways in which one can develop movement restrictions, from an overuse injury like tendonitis to an injury that wasn’t rehabbed properly (i.e. ankle sprain, shoulder separation), exercising incorrectly (i.e. poor form, too much weight, too much of a certain exercise etc.) to trying to work through an injury.  Any one of these will force the body to adapt in such a way that may cause some muscles to become tight and over active while other muscles can shut down or become less functionally active.  This will almost always lead to some type of acute or even chronic pain or injury.
Movement compensations are also a common cause of osteoarthritis (the wearing down of cartilage in a joint).  Many of these types of compensations are relatively easy to correct when dealt with early on.  However,  it’s pretty much impossible to reverse once the joint wears down and osteoarthritis develops.  When the joint is severely compromised by osteoarthritis, the muscles around the joint can become permanently dysfunctional–especially when you don’t t listen to what your body is trying to tell you and you continue to perform movements or activities that aggravate and progress the condition.
All of this can be prevented with a warm-up that not only focuses on increasing core body temperature but which also addresses the tight, overactive muscles and the weak and inhibited muscles that cause us to move with considerable compensations and restrictions.
That’s why every single one of my training sessions–and my own workouts–begins with a R.A.M.P., an acronym for Range of motion, Activation and Movement Preparation.  The “R” (Range of motion) can be anything from soft tissue work like foam rolling, lacrosse ball or the “stick” to active and static flexibility drills.  The goal here is to stretch or “release” the commonly tight, over active muscles that tend to have a strong impact on their weaker counterparts.
The “A” (Activation)  is one of the most important parts of the RAMP, so much so that  if one is to skip any part of the RAMP, this should not be it.  During the muscle “Activation” segment of the RAMP, the primary goal is to address the frequently weak or functionally inhibited muscles (i.e. posterior muscles like the gluteals, lower trapezius, rhomboids, rotator cuff as well as the deep core muscles) by giving them a bit of direct stimulation with exercises to get them “on-line” and stronger. I’ll use isolation exercises side leg raises, bench T’s or pallof presses to target and stimulate these muscles in an attempt to get the individual to “feel” the muscle contract as they begin to develop it.
As the client becomes more “connected” with these muscles they increase the ability to recruit them during large, integrated movements.  Even though isolation exercises don’t really isolate a single muscle, integrated exercises recruit many, many muscles in coordination in order to create healthy movement.  The goal is to ultimately get all of our muscles to “do their job” during the exercises that challenge our primary movement patterns (i.e. squats, lunges, deadlifts, presses, rows, etc.).
Lastly, the “MP” stands for Movement Preparation.  Movement prep drills take the body through some a series of dynamic movements to prepare the body for the more intense movements that are a part of the workout. We may do some low intensity, low volume squats, lunges or various types of crawling exercises, push-ups or light pressing movements. The focus here is to get the joints, muscles and CNS(central nervous system) ready for more intense and strenuous work.
Once we get all this out of the way, we’re ready to exercise.  It may seem like a lot, but once you have a well designed RAMP prepared for you, it’s just a matter of practicing it regularly to get more efficient at it.  It may need to be adjusted from time to time to progress or adapt to your needs at that time.
If you are new to exercise, the RAMP will actually be a great workout.  There are many things within the RAMP that can be very challenging to someone who is not in decent shape.  When implemented correctly, the RAMP can be one of the most important things a beginner can do before engaging in an exercise program. It’s a great way to learn how to use your body correctly during exercise.  For the avid exercise enthusiast it can be one of the most important things you add to your current workout regimen and will likely make your current program more efficient and effective.
As a member of Core Dynamics gym, your membership* comes with a private session with a fitness coach who will design a RAMP just for you? Stop by the front desk, give us a call, or email me to schedule your RAMP session today.  This is something all members should take advantage if they haven’t already done so.
Jim O’Hagan
Strength For Life.
*Three, six and twelve-month memberships only.