Tag Archives: foam rolling

The Importance of a Dynamic Warm Up

My first few years in the gym I would be so cranked up on pre-workout and oozing testosterone that I could walk into the weight room and start cranking out sets with authority. No warm up, no stretching, just my dumb “meatheadness” and bulldog mentality.

Fast forward to today and I don’t touch a weight without a fairly thorough dynamic warm up. Part of that is I’m 32 now and can’t meathead my way through workouts anymore, but more importantly I’m a much smarter lifter than I was in high-school and my 20’s.

I was costing myself a ton of gains by not getting my body properly fired up before training. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Your muscles are not warm and elastic when you first start lifting, which hinders performance and mobility
  2. It takes a while for your central nervous system (CNS) to fire properly and activate your motor neurons at peak performance

Translation is that you don’t perform optimally until partially through your workout, meaning the first exercises (which are usually the most important) you are hitting are probably getting neglected or not performed to their maximum potential.

I came across this from a recent study on warm ups. Note the difference between jump performance when no warm up was performed versus a general and dynamic warm up was completed. In this case, “general” means aerobic activity (light jogging, jump rope, etc.). If you want the full study, you can find it under this title: Effect of Various Warm-Up Protocols on Jump Performance in College Football Players, by Pagaduan, Pojskić, Užičanin and Babajic, in Journal of Human Kinetics, 2012.

I’ll take another example from a very recent experience of mine. I had been experiencing pain in my lower back after squats and deadlifts. I diagnosed the problem as underactive glutes. So the other day when I was scheduled to squat, I expanded my dynamic warm up to target my glutes and get them firing in full force before I started squatting.

The result?

I had one of the best squat days I’ve had in a while and finished the training session pain free.

You can probably take an example out of your own training if you don’t do a dynamic warm up. Think about your performance in the first exercise you do and compare that to some of the things you do 20-30 minutes into your training. I bet you are much more focused, your muscles have stopped being sluggish and are firing on all cylinders, and you are cranking out sets much more efficiently than your first couple of the day.

Do not jeopardize your gains or perform sets sub-optimally because you don’t want to take the time to properly warm up. Every set matters…

Not to mention the injury risk you pose to yourself by going full Hulk smash the first 5 minutes you enter the gym…

hulk-smash1

There are two components to a proper dynamic warm up.

#1: Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a must before a training session to break up inflamed tissue, promote blood flow, and boost performance.

I usually hit my quads, hamstrings, glutes, IT band, adductors, and any trouble spots in my upper body.

You only need to foam roll for a few minutes. I don’t advise rolling a certain area for more than “10 rolls” because too much foam rolling can actually irritate muscle tissue rather than benefit it.

#2: Dynamic Stretching

I don’t really advocate static stretching in a warm up until after I hit some more dynamic movements. Forcing cold muscles to stretch for long durations of time when they aren’t elastic isn’t optimal.

Dynamic stretches that I promote include bodyweight squats and lunges, squat jumps and other jump variations (broad jumps and small box jumps are good options), skipping, jogging, and animal walks (bear crawls and partner walks are awesome). RDL’s with only the bar are great to hit your hamstrings as well.

I also do a series of resistance band stretches (overhand and underhand pull-aparts, and disclocators).

band pull apart
Dynamic stretching is an easy, low-impact way to get your CNS firing, warm up your muscles, and tune up your mobility prior to lifting.

** Now only after I have done some dynamic stretching, I will incorporate some static stretching into the mix, specifically to target my hips and glutes. **

Sample Primal Warm-Up

This entire dynamic warm up should only take about 10-15 minutes to complete.

  • Foam Roll
  • Band Pull-Apart Circuit (10 each movement)
  • Walking lunges: 10/side
  • Bodyweight Squats: 10
  • Skipping: 10/side
  • Standing broad jump: 8
  • Single-leg broad jump: 6/leg
  • Jump squats: 10

After the foam rolling, you could do several rounds of the other exercises to get your body primed for some heavy lifting. The dynamic warm up should be up-tempo with little to no rest in between exercises and rounds.

— Tank

How to Optimize Training Recovery

Training recovery is an often overlooked process in the strength game.

It’s tough for people to pry themselves away from the gym. Trust me, I get it. Back when I first started lifting, I was in the gym every single day, even if it was just to train my abs and stretch. But in hindsight there were far better things I could have been doing with my time to boost my training recovery and make bigger gains.

Truth be told, a lack of training recovery can lead to a laundry list of problems:

  • Injury
  • Poor sleep
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Decreases in training performance
  • Lack of progress

I could go on, but you get the point. Nobody wants to get injured or halt their progress. So your best course of action is to learn how to recover from training.

#1: Post Training Nutrition

Immediately after training, you need to be focused on getting protein, and more importantly, carbohydrates into your system. My go-to nutrition bomb here is a protein shake. It’s an easy way to get quick digesting nutrition into your body. Depending on your bodyweight, your shake would have about 30 grams of protein and between 60-100 grams of carbs. If you can’t get that many carbs into your shake, have some fruit on hand in addition to your shake.

If you are eating Primal style, you will feast at night, so after your post-training shake you will have a huge dinner with even more carbs and protein. This meal carries you over into your next day, where you will graze until your workout, and then the cycle begins.

#2: Contrast Showers

This idea seems to be gaining popularity in the fitness industry lately, but it was originally made “popular” decades ago by the Soviets in Eastern Europe. Elite athletes would immerse themselves in a bath of ice water, then follow it up with an immersion into warm water. This process was repeated multiple times, and the process helps stimulate the recovery process. More specifically, the hot/cold alternation improves blood flow, aids in the inflammation process, and reduces lactate in the muscles.

ice bath for recovery

Since most of us don’t have access to two baths in the same room, I’m calling these contrast showers for practicality. Turn the water on as cold as you can stand it, immerse yourself for up to one minute, then reverse the process with hot water for a minute. Alternate hot/cold 4-5 times.

#3: Sleep For at Least 8 Hours

This one doesn’t require much explaining. Your body is in repair mode while you sleep, so if you don’t sleep, you won’t grow. Most of us need at least 8 hours a sleep at night. Turn off the t.v. at least 30 minutes prior to bed, no computer, or electronics of any kind. Read a book. Make your sleep preparation a nightly ritual and get on a schedule. 8 hours. No excuses.

#4: Stretch and Foam Roll

Both of these are great ways to relieve muscle soreness and increase blood flow. Old-school static stretching will also help with your mobility and lifting technique.

Foam rolling should be done every day, but for only limited periods of time. Foam rolling in particular is extremely effective at removing inflammation and knots in your muscles. Overdoing it however, can irritate your muscles just as easily as it can help. Use the roller during your warm-ups, but for tender and trouble spots, limit your rolling to only a few minutes and do not focus on the same area multiple days in a row.

lacrosse ball foam rolling
If you don’t have access to a foam roller, hit up your local sporting goods store and spend the $2.50 on a lacross ball.

#5: Active Recovery

Recovery doesn’t necessarily have to mean sitting on your ass. On your “off-days”, go for a walk, stretch, play recreational sports (within reason), or even do light workouts. Light workouts on off-days are perfect opportunities to work on your bodyweight training. A short duration session of 100 pushups after a big bench press day can actually help shuttle blood flow and nutrients into your upper body and speed up the recovery process.

#6: Take Time Off

This is by far the hardest thing for hardcore athletes to fathom, but it can be one of the best things you could ever do for yourself. If you are training every day and not taking care of yourself, inertia will inevitably catch up to you and you will suffer. Maybe you will get lucky and not get injured, but your performance will dip, or you will get burnt out. This is not a scare tactic. It’s a fact.

Taking a week off is not only crucial for your body to recuperate from the demands you are placing on it, but it is also an opportunity to rest your mind and self-reflect. Reflect on your training, discover what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, make adjustments, and come back stronger than before. A fully recuperated body both physically and mentally is key to making sure you make continual progress in the strength game, and that you set yourself up for sustainability over the long-term.

— Tank