Preparing for Exercise: The workout you save, could be your own
Most of us have a common routine/formula that we use when exercising. If we go to the gym, we swipe our card, drop off valuables in a locker, and then… Fill in the blank. If you play a sport, maybe you like to get to practice 10 to 15 minutes early to warm up. For most of us this prep work is a bonus. Something that is great if we can make the time, but certainly not a necessary task. I’m here to explain why your workout is only as good as your preparation.
Most of us live extremely sedentary lifestyles, and those of us who fortunately are more active still have a typically repetitive occupation. For example, someone who works in labor who hangs drywall all day will have very tight and overactive shoulders. My hairstylist, who holds a blow-dryer in her left hand only for up to 3 hours per day, causes her left shoulder to rise permanently above her right. We cannot expect our body to magically correct itself before we put excessive loads onto it, or before we go sprint and change direction rapidly. Some serious coordinated effort needs to be done prior to our actual workout. Many athletes are superstitious about their preparation, and truly believe that it directly influences their success to compete at a high level.
I don’t know where the recommendation of lightly jogging on a treadmill for 5 minutes before a resistance training workout came from, but I am sure that currently this is not an acceptable form of preparation for working out with weights. We are going to look at this time spent before our workouts as prehabilitation or prehab. This is done to avoid injury, and end up in rehabilitation or rehab. The first step in our preparation for resistance training, cardiovascular training, or sport is going to be some myofascial release technique (deep tissue massage). If you do not have the daily services of a trained massage therapist, you may use a foam roller. Once the targeted muscles have been relaxed and are more pliable, you next may want to spend some time static stretching the connective tissues that are about to be stressed.
For example, before sprinting I spend about 5 minutes static stretching my calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and lower back. It is very important to note that static stretching alone and directly prior to any dynamic exercise (jogging, sprinting, swimming, power training) is not recommended. Continue to perform some dynamic movements such as butt kicks, high knees, standing hip swings etc. beforehand. Before doing any compound resistance training, let’s use a deadlift for an example, I would static stretch my lats, lower back, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves. Once I have achieved a greater range of motion in my joints, and have shut down some of the overactive muscles that would be getting in the way of a correct movement pattern, I now have to activate (awaken) the opposing weaker muscle groups. Before squatting I would very much like the muscles in my lower quads, hip flexors, glutes, rotator cuffs, and ankles to be ready and willing to support a load up to two times my body weight. This activation can be done with use of bands, tubing, or your own body weight.
Most of my clients who come in not moving very well perform anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes of prehab work before the integrative routine (workout). Our bodies are not very smart or ambitious. They will take the easiest possible path to complete the work, and this is a problem. It can seem like a waste of time at first, but once your body begins to move more efficiently, the less preparation time is involved, and the better your results will be. I now typically spend only 5 to 10 minutes before resistance training preparing for the damage I am about to do to my body.
Compare your work out to a commercial flight. Think of all the preparation that goes into a plane taking off and then landing again. There are many gauges and systems that need to be inspected before and after every flight. This ensures that there are no accidents and that’s the vehicles are routinely maintained. Take the time and effort to prepare, and you will absolutely get the most out of your workout.
Eric Wilson is a corrective exercise specialist and owner/creator of Movement Sciences located in Copley Square. He earned his BS in exercise physiology, and currently holds four nationally recognized certifications. He plays rugby for one of the premier clubs in the United States, and coaches as well. Movement Sciences offers individual and small group personal training sessions. Eric works with an extremely diverse population ranging from children to more “mature” individuals with differing abilities. His philosophy on exercise remains the same regardless of the group: movement first before anything else. You can reach Eric at: firstname.lastname@example.org for a complementary fitness/movement assessment.