Disclaimer, it is best to have a thorough evaluation by a medical professional before proceeding with a fitness program.My essay targets the more recreational lifter, particularly those who have an active lifestyle and work 9-5. Generally, this population has a sedentary job and works out for overall health. Unlike professional lifter, who dedicate more hours to training with professional guidance for competition, I am focusing on the needs of the “weekend warrior”.
For the rest of us, who do not have an athletic training coach and work 9-5, I would like to suggest C.W.U. Corrective Warm Ups, multi-joint corrective exercises mixed with dynamic warm ups. Corrective exercises target muscle imbalances while dynamic warm-ups warm up major muscle groups.
Why not just do cardio for 5 minutes? Cardio by itself does not prepare the muscle for the work ahead…it just raises your core temperature. Pre-workout preparation is just as important as the workout itself. In my 15+ years experience in fitness, I have found some common denominators in how people get injured. The first is focusing only on increasing core temperature in their warm up, not specific joint actions (muscle groups) and second, poor exercise technique.
My training experience tells me it would benefit me to learn from their mistakes and include dynamic and corrective exercises in my client’s workouts. This is applicable regardless whether your goal is strength, power, hypertrophy or weight loss. The name of the game is to keep you training for success and not side tracked by an injury. I want to emphasize there is no “silver bullet” in preventing injuries, however by training smarter we can lessen the chances of injuries.
Unlike designated days where you would focus on corrective exercises with more volume (I called them recovery workouts) e.g. rotator cuff, glute activation, thoracic mobility, reactive training, muscle extensibility & flexibility, you can address some of these muscle imbalances or weak links more frequently via a balanced CWU.
There is a well known S.M.A.R.T. principle that is used when creating a program design and I believe it can apply to the warm up. It should be Specific, Measurable, Action, Realistic and Timed.
Main factors in my corrective warm up design:
1. The exercise order is important, it should not be a series of random movements and it is also not designed to exhaust your energy.
2. Since the human body can move in 7 directions. Forward, backwards, left, right, up, down and rotary, so should the warm-up.
3. It should be specific; if your workout has a heavy emphasis on the posterior chain e.g. dead-lift, it would be wise to also “fire up” the antagonist muscles in your warm up e.g. abdominals –Stability ball bicycle crunches. Another example, if your workout has heavy emphasis on cleans and overhead presses then you want to ensure rotator cuff, erector spinae are warmed up e.g. stability ball pikes.
4. Warm up must include unilateral movement. E.g. t-pushups, walking quadriceps stretch with overhead reach.
5. Warm up must be progressive. E.g. walking quad stretch with overhead reach now finishes with a single leg hip hinge.
6. In a nutshell, design the C.W.U to do MORE in less time. It should take no longer than 5 minutes.
Some of my corrective warm up drills might be challenging but not impossible. Individuals with flat feet may find lunge with rotation and single leg balance challenging. Others with upper cross syndrome may find the overhead reach difficult and also find it hard not to shrug while doing the stability ball press ups or t-pushup.
Note: Having unaddressed muscle imbalances due to injuries or from a sedentary job may limit your performance. One of the requisites of having good form is joint mobility. Left untreated, you are also at higher risk for shoulder, low back and knee injury. Solution…customized corrective exercises.
Foam roll: Benefits, myofascia release, muscle extensibility, promotes muscle recovery.
A Few Benefits of C.W.U.:
• Movement in all anatomical planes- functional, movement patterns.
• Increase core temperature- increase blood flow.
• Core stability-increase muscle fiber activation, recruitment of internal oblique, quadrates lumborum, paraspinal muscles, mid/low traps, transverse abdominus , serratus anterior to name a few. E.g. stability ball pikes.
• Scapular retraction, protraction, depression, upward and downward rotation.
• Unilateral movement: knee stability, hip mobility & stability, balance, ankle mobility
• Improve range of motion:
• Wrist mobility: Stability ball press ups.
• Rotator cuff stability/mobility (at GH joint): t-pushups
• Thoracic mobility- Lunge with rotation, spiderman stretch
• Flexibility: lateral walks lengthen adductors.
• Deceleration: reverse lunge with rotation.
• Breathing, Mind Body: Body Awareness, Mental preparation for workout.
• All levels of fitness and age.
• Helps identify over trained areas before loading. (Might need to foam roll again, unload or more rest) use discretion.
Olympic lifts and power lifts are fantastic exercises that are worth learning correctly. Snatches, power clean and press, dead lifts, front squats, back squats require specific joint mobility (and stability), flexibility, timing, core strength & stability, body awareness and proper technique to reap the benefits.
To maximize your potential and prevent injuries I also recommend doing a movement screen by a fitness professional to identify musculoskeletal asymmetry. Past injuries, current lifestyle (sedentary or active) and goals are also very important in developing a progressive, challenging, result driven training program. With this being said, I also suggest getting guidance from an experienced lifter rather than only watching a video. Having someone watch your form and properly correct it is priceless.
C.W.U for barbell clean, front squat and press, back squat, dead lift*:
Equipment- Stability Ball –Choose a medium size ball.
Note, for a dead lift (hip dominant) workout do not perform the stability ball pikes instead do bicycle crunches.
Increase challenge by working in socks, however orthotics users should not take their sneakers off.
2 circuit sets, Repetitions see below, Frequency: 3x/week, 4-6 Weeks
Stability ball pikes: Start with ball in front of you, rollover stability ball until your feet are on the apex of the ball. Hands slightly wider than shoulder width, neutral neck, do not allow hips to fall, shoulder blades in back pocket, core engaged. This is your starting position, legs are fully lengthened and arms have slight elbow bend.
Inhale and pull ball inwards with your abdominals simultaneously driving hips upward. Your head will be between your arms at the peak and chest facing stability ball. Exhale and return to starting position. Reps 8
*Stability ball bicycle crunch (for dead lift workout only): Sit on apex of stability ball with feet shoulder width apart on the floor. Walk your feet out as you roll yourself down until the lower part of your back is on the ball. Now place your right hand on the floor and left hand behind left ear. Right foot remains on the floor with a 90 degree knee bend. Raise left leg off the floor and keep it parallel. Simultaneously, lift your right shoulder/upper back & right elbow and bring your left knee back to make contact with your right elbow above your abdominals. Reps 16 each side
Stability ball press ups: Kneel in front of ball, with hands pointing forward and wider than shoulder width, elbows outwards. Brace your core and step back one leg at a time, feet may be hip to shoulder width apart. Inhale and slowly lower chest, while keeping a straight back. Focus on shoulder blade retraction (pinching mid traps), exhale as you press up. Reps 8
Walking quadriceps stretch and with opposite overhead reach. Right hand grabs right ankle, bring to glutes on to ball of left foot and reach overhead with left arm (arm aligned or behind ear-finger tips reach for ceiling). Release foot and step forward. Repeat on other side. Reps 4x each side.
Reverse knee tucks. Grab left shin with both hands and tuck knee to chest (stretches left low back and hips). Release and step back, repeat knee tuck on other side. Repeat 4x each side.
Lateral squat with 180 degrees rotation: Side step to left, left knee should be stacked/aligned with foot, hip and shoulder. Left knee should track with foot, weight on left heel, drive hips back, straighten right leg and you should feel a stretch in your inner right thigh. Hold for 2 seconds. Pivot on left heel 180 degrees and side step with right leg. Repeat steps above. Reps 4x.
T-pushups: Set up for a normal pushup. Shoulder blades in back pocket, core engaged, feet hip with apart, neutral neck. Focus on pinching shoulder blades (mid traps) as you descend. Return to starting position, turn hips to left side simultaneously allow your feet to fall to the side (do not stack feet). Hips should not drop (similar to a side plank), right arm turns with body and is perpendicular to the floor, fingertips reach for ceiling. Do not allow the arm to fall back, align with body. Return to starting position, pushup and repeat on the other side. Reps 4x
Spiderman stretch: Start with a straight arm plank position. Feet hip width apart, hands slightly wider than shoulders, bring right leg next to right hand, plant right foot. Loop right arm behind right calf/leg and hold for 3 seconds. Unhook right arm from leg and twist torso till chest and head face right wall, right hand reaches for ceiling. Hold for 3 seconds. Bring right hand back to starting position and repeat other side. Reps 4x.
Lunge with rotation, reverse lunge with rotation: Stand with a front squat grip hand position (not clean grip). Fingers on front of shoulders, elbows lined up with shoulders. Shoulders in back pocket. Step forward with right leg into a split squat, land on right heel and keep weight on right heel, both knees at 90 degrees, shoulders above hips. Rotate elbows to right side, your head must stay centered. Rotate back to center, drive thru right heel to move forward. Repeat on left side. Reps 4x
Standing horizontal chops with thumbs externally rotated, diagonal chops: Stand tall, arms extended together in front of you at chest height, palms facing up. Keep arms horizontal as you mimic a standing cable mid trap pull apart, keep palms facing up.
Diagonal chops, same starting position but with palms pressed together. Separate palms diagonally in front of you, right palm faces up and left palm faces down. Diagonally lift right arm till aligned with ear and diagonally bring downward left arm till aligned with hip. Reps 8x, Repeat on other side with reverse palm position.
C.W.U. for Olympic & Power Lifts
After a few weeks, you can introduce new movement pattern e.g. curtsies, spiderwalks. Add instability to a squat progression by performing it on the flat side of a bosu. A new multi-joint corrective exercise e.g. half kneeling 1 arm ball dribble. Mini band hops etc… Again, it’s progressive, time efficient and geared for injury prevention.
Many people can come up with reasons for not warming up before their workout e.g. time restriction. There are also many debates on whether to stretch before or after a workout, efficiency of foam rolling and even question the importance of warming up itself. I personally resigned from the debating society and rather focus on what yields the best results.
Your time is very valuable and learning how to maximize your training session is a great investment. What you do will carry over to your day to day activities and allow you continue train like an athlete.
Be well and stay ACTIVE!!
Julio A. Salado, NSCA C.P.T.
Fitness Foundry designed for healthy living.©
Kettle Bell & TRX Instructor
USAW Level 1 Coach