3 Most Skipped but Ever So Important Aspects of Your Workout
While lifting may be your main event, it doesn't make the other aspects of your workout negotiable or a waste of your precious time and energy. While it’s understandable to want to get in, work it hard, and get out, making time for the less exciting parts of your workout will actually help your overall performance and even help you lift more weight in the long run.
The three fundamentals we’re talking about here are dynamic warm up, static stretching, and warm-up sets. Just like your car needs motor oil, coolant, and transmission fluid – not just gas – to perform at its best, you need to round out your workouts with stretching routines to optimize your results and reduce risk of injury.
Dynamic Warm Up
Before your workout, you want to do dynamic stretching, which is designed to get your body ready for intense exercise. Dynamic stretching involves performing large, full-body motions that target the muscle groups you will be using during your workout. This will send more oxygenated blood to those areas, helping you lift more and perform better, plus get your muscles loose and joints lubricated so your range of motion is all that it should be.
Moves during dynamic stretching should be deliberate, safe, and guided. To avoid injury, don’t use weights or sudden body jerks or twists.
Here are some examples of dynamic warmup stretches:
- Front Kicks
- Knee to chest motions
- Arm circles
- Hip rotations
Static Stretching: While dynamic stretching will get your muscles warmed up for your workout, static stretching targets permanent flexibility and lengthening, improves your range of motion, and decreases muscle and joint injuries and pain. It is the kind of stretching you do at rest, holding each position for about 30 seconds. It’s best done after your workout, when you muscles are warm and your joints are lubricated. Yes, it is time consuming, and yes, it’s tempting to skip it and leave right after your workout, but you have to take time. But it feels great during and after.
Here are some examples of static stretches:
- Quadriceps stretch (standing, hold your foot to your bottom)
- Hamstring stretch (standing, feet staggered front to back, lean forward, front knee bent, stretching the back of your back leg)
- Arm and shoulder stretch (grip arm just above elbow and pull across chest)
- Cobra (lying on your belly, hands flat on the floor under shoulders, elbows in, straighten arms, head toward ceiling, stretching your core out)
Warm Up sets/Activation: Warm up sets are essentially mini-sets of the exercises you’ll be doing in your main workout. It involves doing a few sets of each exercise with a drastically reduced weight. This will prepare the targeted muscles and loosen up joints that may have cooled since your warmup. It also helps get you mentally prepared for the heavy load. Keep the weight very light, as these should energize you instead of fatiguing your muscles before you've even started. Warm up sets are particularly important for people who start each of their exercises off with their heaviest working weight. It’s all about preparation: warm up sets prepare the targeted muscles, prepare the joints used, prepare the mind, and help establish the feeling and range of the motion for the move. You can vary your sequences with warm-up sets, but a common one is to use about 20-40% of your target weight, performing 1 set of 15 reps prior to each main set you do. Be sure to move the weights in a deliberate, slow manner. This takes practice with light weights, as it’s tempting to fly through the set. But resist rushing and allow the benefits to take hold.
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