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Written on August 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm, by Eric Cressey
Here’s this week’s list of quick tips you can put into action to improve your strength and conditioning and nutrition programs, courtesy of CP coach Greg Robins. This week, Greg focuses on improving your warm-ups.
1. Integrate new movements into your warm-up first.
A solid warm-up should do a few things for you; in a nutshell, it needs to prepare the body for the task at hand. At Cressey Performance, we do this via soft tissue work, mobility drills, and various low level activation exercises. Essentially, we are working on our weak points (from a movement standpoint), so that we can solidify these new ranges with our strength training. Therefore, the warm up itself is a great spot to work on any new movements we want to externally load down the road. As a believer in training efficiency, I would rather see more time spent loading what can be safely loaded, and not spending as much time in the “meat” of the training session working new movements. If you have movement patterns that need practice, do a few sets in the warm up. As an example, CP coach Chris Howard is currently working the steps of the Turkish get-up as part of his warm-up routine before he loads it up. Other options include: frontal plane exercises such as lateral lunge variations, squat variations, and lunge or split squat variations.
2. Put a time limit on you warm-up.
A thorough warm-up includes a lot, and each piece is important. That being said, it doesn’t (nor should it need to) take more than 15 minutes. As I said before, the warm-up needs to prepare you for the task at hand, and that task includes crushing your training session. In order to make that happen, you want to leave the warm up area sweating, fired up, and ready to train. Too often, I see people allow the warm-up process to morph into a 30-minute affair. Not surprisingly, these are the same people who comment on the tediousness of the process, and the fact that their training sessions seem like two-hour affairs. Focus on what needs to get done, and get it done. Scrap the small talk, and get to work! I can properly do all my self massage and 10-12 warm up exercises in 15 minutes, and so can you. When I finish my shirt is damp, my adrenaline is pumping, and I am ready to do work. You need to do the same. Next time you get into the gym, set a timer and condense your 30-minute marathon of a warm-up into 15 minutes. The difference in training quality will be immediately noticeable, and your distaste for warming up will be a thing of the past.
3. “Floss” your joints during self-massage.
I picked this tip up awhile back from strength coach and physical therapist Kelly Starrett. It has made a huge difference in how my elbows, knees, and shoulders feel after warming up. When rolling out you will often find “knots” or areas that are noticeably more tender than others. Stop on these regions, keep constant pressure on the area, and take the nearest joint through some active ranges of motion while the implement used for massage is still applying pressure. I have found this to be especially helpful with a lacrosse ball placed just above the knee, just above the elbow, and under the shoulder. Other options include simply flexing and extending the knees, elbows, and shoulders while rolling across the IT bands / quadriceps (knee), upper and mid back (shoulders), and upper arms (elbows). Here are a few examples:
4. Mimic the day’s big exercise with a lower load variation first.
As a powerlifter, my training sessions always begin with one of the tested lifts: squat, bench, or deadlift. While this may not be the case for the general population or athletes, more times than not they are still beginning with a big compound movement. Instead of diving right in to the lift at hand, consider doing a few light sets of a similar movement that will help ingrain proper technique and give you additional time to orient the body to the day’s main movement pattern. I have found the goblet squat to be a great way to set up for successful squatting. Band resisted good mornings or KB swings are good for the deadlift. Finally, something as easy as a few sets of pushups can help with the bench press.
Each of these options will help raise your core temperature, fire up the CNS, and give you some sensory feed back on how the lift should feel (or will feel) on the given day.
5. Consider using MCTs for pre workout nutrition.
I’ll finish this warm-up edition with a suggestion on how to warm up your body from the inside out. Many people tend to fuel their body pre-workout with various supplements (mostly full of garbage), or with carbohydrate-rich concotions. Instead, consider using a healthy source of fat: Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). The benefits are numerous, and especially advantageous for those looking to increase fat oxidation during the workout. This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that consumption of MCTs as part of a weight loss plan improved overall weight loss. After ingestion of MCTs, the free fatty acid levels are raised, and more available to be used as energy. Supplementing with MCTs pre workout is therefore a terrific option for those on low carbohydrate diets looking for pre-workout energy and increased fat loss. You can get your MCTs in via coconut oil, MCT oil supplements, or even quality coconut milk products. Add in a small amount of BCAAs or whey protein, and caffeine for a boost that will keep you fueled up while aiding you in staying lean.
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