Another mega topic that we could focus our entire business on, but let us summarize. To us, this is the most important lesson to know before you ever workout. It’s not first because we understand it’s not the most popular topic among the general population. The value of mobility and a good warmup is highly underestimated and often ignored. If you’ve made it this far, we’re proud of you and you’re far more likely to succeed because you’ve shown good initiative by being here for this lesson. Ok, enough praise for now, let’s get on with the lesson.
For starters, warmups, mobility, and stretching all mean the same to us. You can’t have one without all of them.
Mobility and Stretching
Mobility is the most common term you will hear today. Mobility is your ability to move. This is most affected by joint range of motion and joint stability combined with the efficient contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Stretching, flexibility, range of motion, or whatever term you go by are all part of mobility. Stretching is designed to restore the original length of a muscle. Note that there is a need for balance in all muscles; you don’t want to be too flexible. Stretching properly actually requires in-depth knowledge of anatomy, but don’t worry, we’ve learned it for you and will do our best to teach you.
Mobility and stretching are covered in every warmup as well as mixed in throughout many of our workouts. Every workout has a warmup provided for you to follow or you can choose from our Warmup Library. If there's a specific joint you want to address, visit our Mobility Library.
“If you don’t have time to warmup, you don’t have time to workout.”
Primary Purpose of a Warmup
- Mitigate injury (strain, cramps, or worse).
- Increase performance (increase circulation to the muscles, wakeup the nervous system).
- Identify and bring awareness to problematic areas (soreness or pain).
An analogy we are fond of for illustrating why warmups are important: imagine a frozen steak; if you try to bend the frozen steak it will break, but if you let the steak thaw (the warmup), you can bend it any way you want and it won’t break. Don’t be a frozen piece of meat.
The average warmup takes about 5-15 minutes. This is the order for our warmups.
- Soft Tissue Massage - Foam rolling and other massage. We suggest everyone foam roll for about 5 minutes before and after every workout. See our Foam Rolling Guide.
- Static Stretching - Holding a stretch 15-30 seconds and breathing to reduce tension (tightness).
- Dynamic Movements - Movement to increase blood flow to muscle tissue and stimulate the nervous system.
It’s important that you go in order and don’t skip steps, there's only 3.
Here’s one of many simplified examples for the reasoning behind this order: the foam roller can release knots and bound up tissue; this allows the muscles to more easily stretch and have greater movement; greater movement will increase blood flow; blood flow is essential for performance and is delivered by the dynamic warmup.
Tip: Consider doing warmups on your rest days to improve your mobility and get in some light activity.
When you learn a new warmup, it’s slow process because you are seeing new exercises. Once you get the moves down and with practice, a 15 minute warmup may only take less than 5 minutes. Fast warmups are not advised, but we get why people do it. A fast warmup is better than no warmup so here are some options that are far better than doing nothing.
Within each of our warmups are Quick Warmups that highlight a few key warmup exercises. This allows you to simplify the warmup if you don’t have the time or patience for the full warmup. You can also just pick some of your favorites and build your own warmup, but keep in mind the idea is to prepare every joint and muscle in the body. Use Quick Warmups sparingly and try to complete the full warmup.
The Bare Minimum Warmup
- Foam Roll your glutes, upper back, lats, and quads. Runners should make an extra effort to massage their calves and feet.
- Do a lighter version of the exercise, but don’t count it as a set. For example, you can perform initial exercises at 50% of your working weight for 1 set (e.g. if your bench pressing 50# dumbbells for 8 reps, do a warmup set of 25# for 8 reps).
Warmup Sets vs. Working Sets
- Running is not a warmup. The amount of injuries we treat from runners who didn’t warmup is enough to grow our business alone. Running is very high impact on the joints os they need to be prepared for it thru a proper warmup. Running does not activate all of the muscles, and that’s the nice way of putting it. Running does not put the joints thru a full range of motion. In summary, warmup before you run and don’t run to warmup.
- Static stretching is not bad for you. Back in the 80’s a study was done that showed a decline in power output after static stretching. Dynamic warmups were born to resolve this. Static stretching does not impair performance when followed by a dynamic warmup. Static stretching is key to improving flexibility and avoiding injuries such as straining a muscle and other problems that come with tight muscles (e.g. the psoas attaches to the lower spine and when it’s tight it can pull the spine forward compressing the disc between the vertebrae resulting in nerve pain).
- Yes, even you need to warmup. If you’ve read this lesson, no further explanation is required. Always warmup.