The WarmupThe warmup is an accepted part of life in the modern world. You get in your car and, you should warm it up to prevent accelerated wear and breakdowns. Women warm up their curling irons, and cooks warm up their ovens. Even good lovemaking begins with a warmup!

Fact is, people seem to know a lot more about warming up cars, stoves and other gadgets than they do about warming up for exercise.

A proper warmup for exercise is essential to lubricate the joints, prepare the connective tissues, activate the nervous system, charge the circulatory system and excite the hormonal system.

Many exercise enthusiasts and even personal trainers commonly assume that riding a bicycle, using a treadmill, step mill, or any number of aerobic modalities serve to warm the body for resistance training.

This is a mistake!

Resistance training induces specific stress to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints of the arms, legs and/or involved spinal structures. The loads are often high, requiring significant activation by the nervous system.

Although aerobic exercise does activate the cardiovascular system and warm the body, this type of warmup is only specific to the working joints.

This is a very important consideration when teaching your clients to prepare for programs that incorporate resistance training exercises that stress the body in patterns very differently than typical cardio warmups.

To prove my point, the next time you get resistance from clients about a warmup, ask them to ride a bike or walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes in preparation to lift weights. Then, have them step off the bike and walk them straight to the Lat Pull Down machine, selecting the same weight they successfully lifted in their previous training sessions.

Before they reach for the bar, remind them that their arms and all the related joints and connective tissues were not activated in anything close to the same movement patterns during their warmup.

Also, consider that the warmup was performed at an intensity level of 30 percent or less, and they are about to lift at an intensity level of 70-85 percent (in most cases) using tissues that are totally unprepared, not to mention their nervous system is about to experience a massive increase in demand!

Remember the S.A.I.D. Principle!

S.A.I.D stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. Following this principle means we must prepare and train the body in accordance with the demands at hand. Therefore, by applying the S.A.I.D. principle to the warmup, these considerations should be made:

1. If your client’s primary activity level will be aerobic, which is low intensity relative to lifting weights, their warmup should reproduce all movement patterns to be used at 50-75 percent of their predicted training intensity.

For example, if he/she is about to run a 5K or 10K at a pace of 6 minutes per mile, their warmup should consist of easy running, progressing from 9-7:30 minutes per mile.

A warmup should be long enough to achieve freedom of movement in all working joints and tissues. The presence of sweat indicates the activation of the body’s cooling system, which ensures that their working tissues are now warm.

2. For weight training, the same principle applies. For each multi-joint exercise to be performed (such as the lat pull down or squat), progress from 50-75 percent of your training intensity in warmup sets. The higher the training load, the greater the number of warmup sets needed to prevent injury.

A typical approach to training the squat with sets at 80 percent (an 8-rep set) or 100 kilograms (220 pounds) would be to squat 10-12 reps with 50 kilograms. (110 pounds), followed by 5-8 reps with 70 kilograms (154 pounds) and finally 4 reps with 90 kilograms (198 pounds).

This progression allows for a complete warmup of the nervous system, muscles, joints and all related tissues in the exact pattern of movement to be trained. This form of warmup also facilitates an optimal hormonal profile for the activity at hand, while cardiovascular warmups do not have the same beneficial effect.

So remember, a good warmup is not only essential to a longer lasting engine, better looking hair, finer tasting food and great sex. It is a keystone to optimal performance and injury prevention with any and all forms of exercise!

Love and chi,

Paul