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Importance of Warming Up Before Exercise

Warming Up Well: The Foreplay of Exercise

Since a young age, we have been told to always “stretch before play.” Parents and coaches have drilled into our minds time and time again to do our toe touches, butterflies, etc. With changing times, there has been much speculation around what a proper warm up should look like. Through tests and subjective feedback by athletes, exercise scientists, movement therapists, and other industry leaders in the subject of the human physiology, mindsets towards movement preparation has greatly shifted. Some of us may now have a better understanding, but some still may be new to the concepts. Where there is a small lack of understanding, there is often an even larger margin of error. The purpose of this article is not to bash current ways of thinking or to say “this is wrong” and “that is right,” but to guide you to a new perspective in approaching your training, in what I like to call, “The Foreplay of Exercise.” Sounds kinky doesn’t it? You (joints and fascia) can’t move (or mitigate force) well without adequate lubrication (circulation). Here is what it is, why it will matter to you, and particular methods to apply into your daily routine on a path to better movement and performance.

Here’s what you need to know

With such a wide variety of movements to choose from, it can be daunting to find a starting place. You may find yourself thinking “but I saw this chiseled instagram model do this, so I thought I’d give it a try.” I’d advise against that. Stick to the basics first, then progress your parameters. I would like to simplify and amuse you with the various movements within your arsenal to not only make your routine creative and fun, but to also create some space within your structure and joints to better accommodate a confident attitude towards your training and performance. Since changing my methods of training, not only have I been able to feel better, but I have exponentially increased my strength in all lifts.

A few questions I tend to ask myself are:

  • How am I currently feeling? Is there a tightness, pain, or other type of feeling that may hinder my ability to perform a movement?
  • What type of exercise/movement am I going to perform? Is there a demand that I may need to adequately progress toward?
  • Have I adequately hydrated/ nourished myself for the task I am about to endure?

These few simple questions will really clarify the purpose of your warm up to best align with your program. From there, we can begin to conceptualize how we will move. This will not only allow us to be most physically available, but mentally available as well, with no second thought as to whether or not we are fully prepared for the exercise or activity we are about to perform. The following order of physiological operations will prove as a staple if you are looking to yielding the highest returns for your hard time. Which I am pretty sure we all would like, because gains.

Circulation

There are many ways to incite a response within our system to promote an increased transportation of oxygen, or in laymen terms, get the good ol’ blood flowing.

Some methods we may be familiar with are

  • Squats
  • Walking/ Jogging/ Running
  • Bicycling
  • Push ups
  • Stair Master

While all these are great methods, I wouldn’t personally incorporate them because there are many more efficient ways to do so, and I wouldn’t want you to risk falling asleep in the gym. So for that reason, lets keep it fun and interesting.

Some other methods you may want to consider are:

1. Getting on the ground and standing up in a different manner each time

2. Doing a squat from push up position (by pushing through the arms and moving the butt towards the heels)

3. Scrubbing your knees, feet, hips to ensure local circulation and enhanced joint function

 

4. Step and chop

 

5. Under switch/ Over Switch

 

6. Crawling patterns (crab walk, bear crawl, Spiderman crawl, lateral crawl)

These are just a few of the movements I would typically use to get my body ready to transmit force; however, there is one which may be of particular benefit, prior to any real movement at all. Scrubbing is an osteofascial technique that I like to refer to as the true foreplay of exercise and movement. What is osteofascial technique? Osteofascial technique is a quite simple concept of thermodynamics. You rub your bone/skin, heat goes to the skin, heat demands oxygen, oxygen rushes to the area via blood flow and circulation, and VOILIA! You have a healthier and more able moving joint. By using the test and re-test method, we can really begin to feel the benefit from the technique and its effect on our movement system.


Methods of application

There are many areas on the body to incorporate the technique, but a few stand out more than others in regards to the major anchor points of the body (where major muscle groups meet at a joint), as well as areas of skin that require more elasticity than others. In parenthesis, I will label the area as being primarily a bone you will be rubbing, or the area of ligamentous structure (if it is more skin based, less bony). The anchor points/ areas to make a priority are:

Anchor point 1: The forefoot (extensor retinaculum, skin)

Area: where your forefoot meets the lower shin. The skin on the top of the upper foot
Tools to scrub with: Hands, tennis ball, the flat of your knuckles in a lightly balled fist.
How to apply: Rubbing the area 15 seconds at a time, or until heat can be felt at the area for 2-3 rounds.
Relieves tightness in: Calf complex, Peroneals, Feet and ankles, anterior tibialis, posterior tibialis
Better quality movement in: walking, running, jumping, squatting

Anchor point 2: Ankle bone (Lateral and Distal Malleolus, bone)

Area: The sharp left and right round structures on the side of your foot, or the ankle bone.
Tools to scrub with: Hands, tennis ball, the flat of your knuckles in a lightly balled fist.
How to apply: Rubbing the area 15 seconds at a time, or until heat can be felt at the area for 2-3 rounds.
Relieves tightness in: Calf complex, Peroneals, Feet and ankles, anterior tibialis, posterior tibialis
Better quality movement in: walking, running, jumping, squatting

Anchor point 3: Lateral knee (Lateral fibular head, bone)

Area: The knob on the lateral (outside) area, located just diagonally to the kneecap
Tools to scrub with: Hands, tennis ball, the flat of your knuckles in a lightly balled fist.
How to apply: Rubbing the area 15 seconds at a time, or until heat can be felt at the area for 2-3 rounds.
Better quality movement in: Foot and ankle, running/ walking, hamstring complexes

Anchor point 4: Illiac crest (bone)

Area: The widest part of your hips, slightly towards the front end of the hip rather than the back.
Tools to scrub with: Hands, tennis ball, the flat of your knuckles in a lightly balled fist.
How to apply: Rubbing the area 15 seconds at a time, or until heat can be felt at the area for 2-3 rounds.
Relieves tightness in: Lower back (erector spinae), QL (Quadratus Lumborum), TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae)
Better quality movement in: Side bending motions, Lateral flexion of spine, Hip stabilization and deceleration, knee extension and stabilization upon deceleration.

Anchor point 5: Sacroilliac joint (bone)

Area: The area of the lower back, just below the spine, where the pelvis and spine meet. Look/ feel for the triangular structure in the middle area.
Tools to scrub with: Hands, tennis ball, the flat of your knuckles in a lightly balled fist, foam roller on wall or floor.
How to apply: Rubbing the area 15 seconds at a time, or until heat can be felt at the area for 2-3 rounds.
Relieves tightness in: Lower back, Glutes
Better quality movement in: rotational movements, walking, running, squatting, jumping, unilateral motions

Anchor point 6: Anterior superior illiac spine (bone)

Area: The sharp bone at the front side of your pelvis. widest bone on the front side of the hip.
Tools to scrub with: Hands, tennis ball, the flat of your knuckles in a lightly balled fist, foam roller on wall or floor.
How to apply: Rubbing the area 15 seconds at a time, or until heat can be felt at the area for 2-3 rounds.
Relieves tightness in: Hip Flexors (Psoas), Abductors (Sartorius)
Better quality movement in: Frontal plane, Knee Stabilization (walking, jumping running), Hip stabilization

Anchor point 7: Collarbones (clavicle) / sternoclavicular joint (bone)

Area: The two long bones below the neck, as well as the the two joints towards where they meet.
Tools to scrub with: Hands, tennis ball, the flat of your knuckles in a lightly balled fist
How to apply: Rubbing the area 15 seconds at a time, or until heat can be felt at the area for 2-3 rounds.
Relieves tightness in: neck, shoulder, chest
Better quality movement in: Throwing, pressing, swinging, chopping, pulling

How To Test

  1. Perform a set of squats. 6 repetitions with a slow and controlled tempo, and a slight pause at the bottom.
  2. Take notice of how you feel through the motion. Maybe the right heel is feeling tight, or your left knee is feeling stuck. One hip may be more flexible than the other. Keep this feeling in your mind so we can refer back to it after tending to the areas.
  3. Perform the aforementioned rub and scrub methods on one side of the body, Foot and ankle, knee, hip, and then proceed to squat again. Notice anything different about the side we tended toward?
  4. Proceed to tend to the same areas, on the opposite side of the body now. You should be moving as smooth as a river downstream!

Why does this matter to me?

First and foremost, a healthier joint means your connective tissue (fascia) and other corresponding muscles that attach and receive information from these very complex structures now do not have to work as hard and are able transmit strain and force more effectively. It is like a shot of adrenaline to your system to increase its capacity to move safely. How awesome right? You can use your knuckles, hands, a tennis ball, or foam roller to do so. Skin to skin contact is suggested as you have the most thermoreceptor stimulation, thereby increasing your body’s perception of heat and circulation to an area. Forces and impact through the body are now more efficiently mitigated to prevent excessive stress to any particular area, which often results in myofascial adhesions or “trigger points.

Aforementioned are some of the most important anchor points of your body that either absorb, preserve or mitigate force throughout your body, based on how well your tissues are hydrated (Nutrition, movement, eustress and distress). Just by simply increasing circulation to the area, we can begin to create better quality movement, strength, reduced risk of injury, and a long term approach to moving well and performing at your highest potential.

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