Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Warm Up

After weeks of ranting on a nutritional theme, I figured it was time turn my hand to exercise. Specifically I thought I would share my warm up. I use this warm up all the time regardless of sport. So prior to sprinting, kung-fu, rock climbing, kick boxing, gymnastics or a (rare) visit to the iron-house, this is how I prepare myself. As it engages all limbs it raises heart rate and ensures all body-parts are reached!

Warm Up Mistakes

People make three mistakes with warm ups:

1) they don't do one, thinking they can gently 'ease' in to a session,

2) they perform an inadequate warm-up that does not engage all limbs, nor generally raise the heart rate,

3) they take too long with their warm up and 'blow their cookies' for the session.

Hmmmmm, I think that is all bases covered! For those that take option '1', it is a false economy. The main part of your workout should be about quality work - not some half arsed attempt at preparing yourself for work. Without an organised approach to warming up you are likely at best to then be guilty of '2' and possibly stumble in to '3'.

The Goal of a Warm Up

A good warm up will heat up body tissue, promoting blood-flow around the body (delivering fresh oxygen to muscles), and lubricate joints. The net result is a decrease intramuscular friction and promotion of elasticity in addition to an increase in your metabolism and the speed of nerve impulses. You are 'primed' for action! As exercise commences and increases in intensity, a message is sent to the adrenal glands to secrete adrenalin.

Adrenalin increases heart rate and dilates capillaries (allowing an increase in the volume of oxygenated blood to flow around the body). The is an increase in the production of synovial fluid (to ease joint mobility). Looking at this issue through a paleo filter, we should be able to 'deliver' from a cold state - in case of a fight or flight scenario. Adrenalin is the magic ingredient here - as anyone who has been scared will testify. After a fright, your heart rate is pumping and you are 'on-edge' in preparation for a fight (or to run away).

A warm up has a psychological component as well. A good warm up will prepare you physically but also puts you in a mental state that acknowledges you can "push it".

The Warm Up: Part A

Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. keep your head up and relax. You will now perform a set of rotations. The rotations should be at a 'medium pace' and exploit your full range of motion:

1) Straighten your arms out at 45 degrees from your body and rotate you hands/wrists clockwise five times. Then rotate them anticlockwise for five rotations. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

2) Now move to the shoulders. Rotate them forwards five times, then backwards five times. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

3) Rotate your chin (not your head), in a clockwise direction five times, then rotate it anticlockwise five times. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

4) Rotate your pelvis clockwise five times, then anticlockwise five times. Repeat this step once (so you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction). When performing these rotations, imagine you are using a Hula Hoop. Try to keep your torso upright and your upper legs still, accentuating movement in the pelvis alone.

5) Now move down to your knees. Bend them slightly and put your hands on your knees (in a 1950's shang-a-lang 'stylee'). Rotate your knees five times clockwise and then five times anticlockwise. Repeat this step once (so again, you will have completed a total of 10 rotations in each direction).

The Warm Up: Part B

Stand upright. You arms should be relaxed and hanging down by your side. For each activity perform 1-3 sets each of about 10 reps:

1) Front arm-swings; Imagine you are marching like a soldier. Your arms swing back and forth in a vertical plane. This is exactly the action you perform for front arm-swings (but keep your feet still). The swings should take your arms as far back as they go but rather than wildly 'throwing' your arms back, try to 'lead' them. With each swing, try to push for a greater range of motion.

2) Side arm-swings; Hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder height. Swing your arms back and as wide as possible behind you, and then bring them forwards in front of you. Vary the angles between the arm and the body and use a different 'plane' for each swing (think of 'semaphore'). Again, the swings should not be wild, you should 'lead' your limbs. With each swing you should aim to push your arms further back behind you.

3) Front leg swings; In this exercise, you will be using your hand as a target to kick to. Stand upright and hold your left arm out in front of you (imagine you are holding a dog on a lead). Now swing your left leg up until it touches your hand and then lower it again. You MUST start well within your comfortable range of motion with this exercise. With each subsequent swing, raise your hand slightly - to give you a higher target to kick to. As a rough guide, your swings should be just over half your maximum range of motion when you are half way through the total number of kicks you intend to perform. Repeat for the right leg.

4) Side leg swings; As above, in this exercise, you will be using your hand as a target to kick to. Stand upright and hold your left arm out to the side. Now swing your left leg out to the side until it touches your hand and then lower it again. Again, you MUST start well within your comfortable range of motion with this exercise. With each subsequent swing, raise your hand slightly - to give you a higher target to kick to. As a rough guide, your swings should be just over half your maximum range of motion when you are half way through the total number of kicks you intend to perform. Repeat for the right leg.

5) Rear leg swings; Bend over and rest your hands upon the back of a chair or stool. The height of the support is not too important. Now swing your left leg out behind you, taking care not to turn your torso (i.e. keep your pelvis forward facing). Again, you MUST start well within your comfortable range of motion with this exercise. With each subsequent swing, try to lead your leg higher and higher. As a rough guide, your swings should be just over half your maximum range of motion when you are half way through the total number of kicks you intend to perform.

Problems

There are normally three problems people find with this warm up:

1) If you reach an plateau at a non-maximal range of motion in your warm up, it means you are pushing too far too soon in the warm up. Aim for initial swinging ranges well within your comfort zone. Your maximal range should be reached only on your final swing or two.

2) If you achieve maximal range of motion well within your warm up (but after one set of about 10 reps), then simply cut back on sets. Once maximal range is reached your muscles should be locked and loaded for action.

3) 'Tweaking' is an injury. It means that you are swinging your limbs too wildly. Slow down the swings.

Finally....

As you progress, you will be able to drop sets from this warm up. With time you should be able to get to your full range of motion from about 10 swings of your limbs. The whole routine should take about 5 minutes. Conversely, do not worry about adding a few more rotations or swings to any particular step if you feel stiff.

1 comment:

Methuselah said...

Thanks - this is a handy guide.

One thing has always puzzled me - surely our ancestors were sometimes required to exert great effort at times when they were not primed for it by an adrenaline rush. For example, would they not have needed to move large tree trunks or rocks when going about their daily business? Perhaps they did indeed injure themselves doing things like this, just as we do. I suppose I am wondering why we have not evolved to be able to exert great effort without either adrenaline or warm-up to prepare us...