Monday, March 31, 2008

Warm ups......

Actually stretching is OK but not as a warm up - that seems to be the view of both scientists and coaches now.

For example, Vern Gambetta comments:

I want to make sure that people do not get the impression that stretching is not important. Stretching as a means to improve functional flexibility is very important. It is a separate training unit. Stretching is not warm-up!

This New York Times piece concludes:

Another systematic review, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2004. It looked at multiple studies and found that stretching “was not significantly associated with a reduction in total injuries,” but also concluded that more research was needed.

For now, many experts say that what may work is a quick warm-up, like low-impact aerobics or walking. It also helps to ease into an activity by starting off slow and then increasing speed, intensity or weight (for lifting).

So how do you warm up, if not by stretching?

Scott Sonnon says that:

Dynamic movements are the best way to prepare your body for dynamic workouts. The following series of Dynamic movements will develop your flexibility, balance, coordination, mobility and strength.

So what does that mean?

Craig Ballantyne has a nice simple idea of using bodyweight exercises to warm up: 5 minutes of bodyweight exercises to warm-up. This is a much more efficient approach than spending 5 minutes walking on a treadmill, which really doesn't prepare you for anything except more walking on a treadmill.

for example, we would do a circuit of bodyweight prisoner squats (to include the upper back muscles), some type of pushing movement (pushups - modified to the trainee's level of difficulty), and some type of pulling movement (focusing on shoulder blade retraction).

That could simply be 2 circuits of
  • 10 reps of bodyweight squats or lying hip extensions
  • 20 second plank
  • 6-10 reps of kneeling pushups or pushups

Scot Sonnon has an excellent post on his blog today which is a little more developed:

Sequencing Dynamic Flexibility and Joint Mobility

In this article he presents the standard dynamic flexibility series used by James Madison University.

He goes on to say:

Your workout should have a prescribed joint mobility warm-up. It should always precede this dynamic series. The warm-up raises the body temperature, increases blood flow to the muscles, and lubricates the joints. Always remember warm-up the joints, they prime the muscles for work! Do not stretch to warm-up!

It is a great article.

While I am on the subject, I think Crossfit's warm up stops being a warm up and becomes a workout....


Charles R. said...

Dude, where ya been?

Just kidding. But I read a book by a guy named Thomas Kurz, "Stretching Scientifically," a bunch of years ago, and got religion about not stretching without a warm up. I even got my martial arts teacher at the time to adopt the principles for his martial arts classes.

Dynamic warmups are definitely the way to go. When I see people/athletes head out and just start stretching cold muscles, it gives me chills. You can do a lot of damage, and there is not much benefit if any to stretching cold muscles.

Now when people want to stretch their back out, I tell them to do crunches...

Charles R. said...

One more comment.

Gambetta says in his blog post, It is also important to remember that strength and flexibility are closely related.

Thomas Kurz says exactly the same thing. In fact a major part of his flexibility program involves building strength.

I'm paraphrasing, but his argument is that having passive flexibility is pretty useless, especially for an athlete.

For example, just to be able to bend over and touch your toes, using your body weight to stretch your back and hams doesn't really get you a whole lot.

But having the stregth to lift your leg above 90 degrees in front of you, or do a full side split means you are not only flexible but strong. That's what you're looking for because that's flexibility you can use in dynamic, active movements.

(And why having a partner stretch you by pushing you into position is a bad idea. Same thing with the stretching machines.)

Kurz is great. You can subscribe to his newletter, and he has a very interesting and scientific approach to training. He also doesn't suffer fools and foolish questions easily.

Google Kurz and Stadion to find his web site. For my money, he's right up there with Chek and Gambetta, though not as well known or marketed.

Chris said...

Thanks Charles - Kurz' name keeps cropping up - I'll check him out.


Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nickel said...

I find that a quick session of jumprope is a great warmup before lifting.