The Importance of Movement Prep

Most people will concede (often reluctantly) that warming up prior to training is important.  Yes it’s a very boring topic and we’d all rather walk it to the gym and just get on with it, but if you’re serious about staying healthy and getting results in the gym, you need to embrace the warm up.

Warming up has important physiological and psychological benefits.  Physiologically (body) a warm up will increase the heart rate,  loosens the joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. Psychologically (mind) it gives us five to ten minutes to prepare ourselves mentally for what we’re about to do.  For some people this is visualisation etc, for others its an opportunity to get the last of the chit-chat out of the system before they focus fully on their workout!

Previously a warm up might have consisted of  5-10 minutes of an increasing speed on a treadmill followed by a couple of token arm circles and a few cheeky leg swings (or worse, the old ‘arm across the chest stretch’ that nobody ever really needed to be doing).  Not any more, we need to be more savvy…..

The ‘Warm up’ has now been replaced with the rather ingeniously branded  ‘Movement Prep’ (MP).  MP is an approach which still provides us with the afore mentioned physiological and psychological benefits but prepares the body with a more focussed and more specific approach which will mobilise the joints, release soft tissue (muscles etc), stretch out any tight muscles, activate any underactive muscles, and get the body moving in the multiple patterns in which it is about to set forth.

Now there are many ways to go about movement prep, all of which will work for different populations and their differing goals.  Our approach at W10 is four-fold and we follow the following sequence:

  • Release
  • Inhibit
  • Activate
  • Integrate
Release
First off, we want to mobilise and realign soft tissue (muscles etc).  The goal here is to prepare the tissues for the stresses we’re about to put them under, release any tender points and scan for any potential trigger points (painful spots).  For this we use the foam roller – something you could liken to a massage therapist’s palm.
Our W10 current foam roller flow hits IT band (side of leg), vastus lateralis (front of thigh), VMO/Adductors (inside thigh), calves, hamstrings (back of thigh), glutes (backside), thoracic spine (upper back) and lats (under arm).

We follow the foam roller work with some trigger pointing which we do with hockey or cricket balls.  The goal here is to more specifically target any tender areas with the smaller (and thus more concentrated) surface area of the ball.  This could be described as being akin to the massage therapist’s elbow.
Typically we hit the glutes, plantar fascia (under side of the foot), calves and pecs (chest).
Note: Both foam rolling and trigger pointing are often sore.  Sore is fine (likely good), very painful is too much.
Inhibit
A lot of the people who train at our gym spend most of their day seated and their posture and muscular system reflects this.  People very often present with adaptively shortened and/or overactive muscles (often referred to as ‘strong’, although not always the case) which need to be stretched out or ‘inhibited’ so that they don’t take over during movement and allow their underactive counterparts get to do their bit (see below).
These muscles are typically the neck extensors (back of neck), upper traps (neck/shoulders), pecs (chest), lats, hip flexors (front of pelvis), hamstrings (behind the knee) and calf muscles and we inhibit these.  We do this by stretching them out.
Activate

Where there are overactive muscles there will be under active ones (often referred to as ‘weak’, although not always the case) .  The goal once we’ve inhibited the overactive, or strong, muscles is to activate their dormant, under active or weak, cousins so that when we come to move they have been awoken and are ready to take up their share of the slack.

These muscles often work in opposites so we often see underactive neck flexors (front of neck), rhomboids/scapular retractors (mid back), shoulder eternal rotators (back of shoulder), mid/lower traps (mid back), and glutes.

Integrate

Once we’ve released the soft tissue, inhibited the overactive muscles and activated the sluggish ones, we want to ingrate our re-wired system into movement or patterns in which it is going to be exposed, typically with bodyweight exercises.

The bottom line is that we don’t move as much or as well as we used to and a good quality warm up/MP is probably the difference between good structural health and effective workouts and otherwise.  And if you’re not doing it, you should be.

Everyone has different requirements but apply these principles and see how you get on.  You’ll get better results from your training and your joints will definitely thank you for it!