Never Skip Your Warm Up, Mobility Drills & Stretching If You Want To Be Pain Free & Strong
For those of you in pain this step is crucial to your rehabilitation program. You cannot stabilize and strengthen joints or weak areas if you cannot achieve optimal range of motion. All too often this step is just skipped and given not enough respect or time to work. We are all so keen to get the problem “fixed” that we do not acknowledge how important this is.
- Warm up
Anyone on a knee pain, back pain, piriformis syndrome or any rehab program will find this extremely helpful.
- YOU MUST WARM UP
Before you stretch you must ensure one thing. You must make sure your core temperature is warm and especially the muscles you are about to stretch. Stretching a cold muscle is the easiest way to tear a muscle, and it also is not likely to stretch very well anyway as it needs to be warmed up first.
Have you ever seen a professional athlete skip the warm up? Imagine Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal just walking out on court and playing the Australian Open straight away? Or Usain Bolt doing no warm up prior to running the 100m final? Do you think they warm up when they practice too? Of course they do? Why? Because they know the risk of injury is very high and also they will not perform at their best.
Yet why do so many people skip the warm up? Two reasons – Laziness and ignorance.
Here is a simple equation to remember:
“SKIP WARM UP = POOR PERFORMANCE & POTENTIAL INJURY”
With weight training we ALWAYS do a warm up set first. Usually have the load set at 50% of what I could normally do and complete a set of 12 reps. Doing this prepares the muscles, ligaments and tendons for the work they are about to be exposed to, and gives you a chance to feel if something is not right and avoid straining yourself when you exercise. Sometimes it might be stiff and tight from sitting too long or something you did at work the day before. With a gentle warm up you can feel it and are able to make adjustments before it is too late and you injure yourself.
My best analogy for this is think of what toffee is like if you put it in the fridge overnight and take it out the next morning and try to bend it. You will have no chance bending it until you warm it up a bit and then you can do almost anything with it. Muscles, tendonds and ligaments work the same way.
- Mobilize The Joints First
Any new client who starts with us will learn how to do this in their very first session! Regardless of their goals or needs for we know this is absolutely essential for us to be able to teach you how to move efficiently.
Mobility we define as freedom of movement. It is not limited to a single joint but a combination of joints and is more movement based as opposed to holding one particular muscle with increased length for a period of time. This is quite confusing to explain at times for this is not limited to just one area but how a combination of several work together. An example would be someone has optimal flexibility at the hip, knee and ankle yet when they squat they lack freedom of movement. This is not a flexibility problem but a mobility and stability problem affecting how they move.
Mobility drills work best when completed before stretching. The reason is very simple. If the joints are restricted especially at the lumbar or thoracic spine, there is no way you will be able to improve or get anything out of your stretching routine. The joint simply cannot do anymore. It needs to be freed up!
With siatica and piriformis syndrome this is a classic case of the siatic nerve being pinched and trapped. Stretching can actually be very painful and even exacerbate the symptoms. Using foam rollers can be very helpful here.
- Identify Tight Muscles & ONLY Stretch Them
Notice I did not say start stretching everything or use a one size fits all stretching program. You need to use an assessment to define what needs to be improved. If you can achieve optimal range of motion this muscle just needs to be maintained, it does not need extra. Too much flexibility is as bad as not enough.
The main thing to look for is variance between left and right, and anything that is lacking range of motion needs to be improved to match the other side. You must strive to be symetrical across all joints otherwise compensation takes over and faulty patterns emerge. Experienced trainers, or health therapists can use measurements to determine if it is lacking in range of motion but if you are testing yourself you can use the simple feeling of it is hard to do, or it obviously lacks range.
It is important to ALWAYS stretch at the end of your session and also to stretch any tight muscles every day. Just stretching one or two times per week will do nothing and compromise your training. You cannot skip this step.
I hope you enjoyed this article and have armed yourself with some great knowledge and tools on how to get the most out of your training using some of these very simple techniques and methods. Elite athletes all carry foam rollers with them and they also devote significant time to recovery using mobility and flexibility work. This is one thing that makes them so great for they do not break these rules. To be the best you can be follow their lead and you will reap huge rewards and enjoy training.