Warming up for weight training

Posted: November 18, 2008 in Training

Without fail people come into the gym and do the same exact thing before lifting weights.  They hop on the treadmill for their daily 5-10 minute aerobic warm-up.  This is fine, actually.  Getting the blood flowing and physically warming up the body on various levels is a fine idea.  They then proceed to static stretching where they stretch various muscles to their end ranges of motion and hold for a count, usually 30 seconds or so. 


Static stretching has it’s place in your programming.  Statically stretching your body before lifting weights happens to be the wrong place for it though.


If you’re going to be training dynamically, meaning you’re going to be exerting force with your muscles through full ranges of motion against movable objects, you might consider warming up dynamically.  Dynamic stretching has been quite the buzzword as of late and for good reason.  Heck, even the NY Times is hopping on the bandwagon!


Research is also painting a pretty picture for dyanmic vs. static stretching pre-performance as noted here and here as example.


So what’s the deal?  Why should you consider dynamic warm-ups?


Well here’s a short list for you to ponder:


1.  Static stretching where you slowly, passively stretch a muscle until it relaxes (which is commonly done pre-training) appears to increase muscle/connective tissue compliance with a reduction in excitation from the nervous system.


2.  Think of the above like this:  Static stretching tends to overly loosen the muscle.  The muscle actually loses it’s stiffness and when you couple this with the reduced nueral activation you lose ability to generate force.  A lesser ability to generate force doesn’t sound like something you’d want to have happen before you lift weights, does it?


3.  Dynamically warming up elevates the body’s temperature much better than static stretching, which should be obvious given the fact in the former you’re moving and in the latter you’re not.


4.  Some suggest dynamic mobiltiy exercises in warm-up better prepare you mind-body link for movements.  You’re going to be moving a lot when you exercise and a dynamic warm-up is a nice initiation or rehearsal for that upcoming bout.


5.  Force production has been shown to actually increase with dynamic stretching.


The list goes on.  Depending on where you get your information, dynamic stretching is the rave.  However, in the local gym scene near us, we don’t see much of it as noted above.  Don’t fall victim to ‘following the trend” and don’t be afraid of trying new things in the gym.  The programs, form of execution, warm-ups and the overall attitude of the majority of gym patrons flat out stink.  If ‘the masses’ look at you strangely when you’re trying some of the exercises highlighted below, take it as a compliment.


Warming up properly is a critical component in weight training and injury prevention.  Next time you’re in the gym, toy around with some of these basic, dynamic movements.  A couple of sets in the 10-12 rep range should be more than plenty.


CAT-CAMEL STRETCH – A great movement for priming the spine for movement and stability.



SUPINE BRIDGE – Excellent movement for activating the glutes and readying your hips for extension.



FRONT & SIDE LEG SWINGS – Another great movement for opening up your hips and activating Tthe prime movers in your legs.




WALL SLIDES – This movement is great for loosening muscles that are commonly tight and increasing mobility of the shoulder complex.



This is by no means a complete list, rather a few simple movements that carry a high return on investment.  We are busily working on building out our exercise database which currently houses over 80 videos.  We hope to have a few hundred by the time we’re said and done.


Stay tuned!









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