Most people understand that a proper warmup can make or break an exercise session. It is one of the few fitness facts ingrained in our minds from youth, starting with physical education class.
In junior high, I distinctly remember our P.E. teacher requiring us to perform arm circles until my shoulder muscles burned with fatigue.
But recognizing the value of a warmup is only the first step.
The warmup should be approached with the same individual attention and customization as the primary workout session — as everybody knows. And yet most people jump on a treadmill for 5 minutes and call it good.
I challenge clients to really think about their own physiology before developing a warmup routine. Which joints are particularly tight? Which muscle groups will be challenged in the workout? These are the questions that lead to high-quality warmup customization.
That 5 minutes on a treadmill is a start. In general, I find it useful to focus on three key body parts after that initial cardiovascular warmup: the hips, lower back and shoulders. It's not that these body parts are any more important than others, but almost every workout includes specific movements that require the active mobilization of these joints. So, I like to include a few warmup exercises that address these three body parts whenever possible.
Dynamic warmup activities often use a very light resistance band, light dumbbell or they simply are body weight movements. The key is to take the joints through their range of motion using a slow and controlled technique that quickens blood flow and encourages more synovial fluid to enter the joint space for lubrication.
Believe it or not, those large arm circles from P.E. class are actually a great example of a proper shoulder warmup.
This week's exercise is another example of a great warmup activity because it allows the hips and lower back to warm up in unison, with one big movement. The Good Morning Squat Combo is a perfect option for those seeking warmup quality and efficiency.
1. Select a kettlebell, weight plate or even a rock. Hold the object with both hands against the chest with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Perform a normal squat by bending the hips and knees.
3. As you stand back up, go right into a "good morning" exercise by bending forward at the waist while keeping the lower back very flat. You will lower the torso while keeping both legs very straight.
4. As your torso reaches parallel with the ground, straighten back up.
5. Perform two sets of 12 for this great warmup activity.
During the first set of these, you will feel the blood flow enter the lower back and hamstring muscles. The second set will feature a tiny bit of fatigue and "burn" in the quadriceps -- but nothing significant.
All in all, it's a fantastic movement for warming up the lower body and core region with very little equipment or experience required. Give it a shot!
Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.