Understanding the role of warming up before a workout will help you determine what type of warmup will best prepare you for your weight training routine. Warming up prepares your body physically and mentally and improves performance and strength gains. It also addresses muscle imbalances to promote proper kinetic chain alignment during the workout.
Determine Muscle Imbalances
Fitness professionals refer to the problem of one muscle doing the work of another as synergistic dominance. A personal trainer can assist you in determining any muscle imbalances and selecting the appropriate warmup and stretches. If you do not have access to a trainer, perform a squat with arms raised in front of a mirror or a partner. Pay particular attention to arms falling forward, excessive forward lean, knees caving in or flaring out and heels rising, all of which indicate overactive and or underactive muscles. Heels rising, for example, indicates a tight, underactive gastrocnemius muscle. As a general rule, the direction in which your body moves outside of proper alignment suggests an overactive muscle in that direction and an underactive muscle on the opposite side.
Weight training exercises require muscles to operate through a wide range of movement. If one muscle is dominant or lacks extensibility, movement is compromised. Foam rolling addresses these issues better than static or active stretching and is becoming the gold standard among personal trainers, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Similar to a pool noodle but much stiffer, the foam roll allows you to massage the muscle yourself with what is aptly named self-myofascial release. For proper technique, see Sports Fitness Advisor’s online tutorial.
Elevate Heart Rate
Following self-myofascial release, begin your warmup with a slow walk or jog to steadily increase your heart rate, stimulate blood flow and literally warm up your muscles. Increasing heart rate and blood circulation prepares your body for the more strenuous activity of your weight training workout, particularly if you engage in circuit training.
Contrary to popular belief, active stretching better prepares you for a weight training workout than does static stretching. Active stretching takes a muscle through the movement of exercises that will be performed with resistance during the workout. Be especially conscious of maintaining proper form through active stretches. Select stretches that mimic your upcoming workout. Consider lunges, squats, pectoral stretches, pushups against a wall, biceps curls and triceps extensions. Perform the movements slowly while breathing steadily.
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