Warm your muscles up before you work! This is something I’ve wanted to blog about since I passed my PT and started working in the gym. I was guilty of not warming up sufficiently before I understood the importance of it, and as a consequence have had a fair few injuries over the years. Since working in the gym I could probably count on both hands the number of people I’ve seen warm up before they workout (this does not include anyone I’ve trained), I’ve become obsessive about it, that and drinking water… The number of people I’ve seen come in the gym and jump straight on the weights, heaviest weights too… You’re going to do yourself a serious injury, seriously!
If your muscles and joints aren’t warm, supple and ready to work, brace yourself to hear/feel a snap, ping or pull… Research generally agrees that the main way to prevent muscle injury is to raise the muscle temperature, as muscle is more elastic when warm and will stretch without damage.
Start with CV. If you’re in the gym jump on a piece of cardiovascular kit – bike, cross trainer, treadmill… for 5-10 minutes, increasing the level/intensity gradually. You could also do a number of bodyweight exercises including jogging on the spot, high knees, butt kicks, star jumps and so on… Starting with CV gets your heart rate up, blood and oxygen pumping around your body which lubricates your joints.
And stretch… Now you’ve increased muscle temperature and got blood pumping around your body, lubricating your joints and limbs, stretch the muscles that you’re going to use in your workout. Stretches should be specific to your goals and workout, a mixture of dynamic (involving motion) and static (no motion).
At the end of your workout it’s important to do a cool down, gradually taking your heart rate and blood pressure back down to near resting rates. Research has shown that performing a cool down can reduce stiffness (DOMS) that can occur 24-72 hours after exercise. It also helps maintain circulation, preventing blood pooling (when exercise stops abruptly the heart continues to beat fast, pumping a lot of blood that pools in the lower legs). A cool down should be done over a 5-10 minute period, gradually decreasing intensity. You can do this by jumping back on the CV kit you used as part of your warm-up, followed by more stretches.
Some of the go-to stretches I do include:
- Squat to overhead reach
- Wood chop
- Standing pectoral stretch
- Standing latissimus and mid trapezius stretch
- Standing quadriceps and hamstrings stretch
- Lying glute and oblique stretch
- Lying sphinx stretch
- Cat stretch (my favourite!)
I also regularly use a foam roller, an instrument of torture (until you get used to it!) that I now can’t live without. Read all about the benefits of using one here…
Read more about the importance of drinking water here…