Things You Should Do Before Every Workout
by Jari Love
You should never dive into a workout cold. Taking the extra time to prep your body before training will help you get the most out of the time invested. “If you don’t warm up, you run the risk of doing too much too fast,” says Joseph Mosher, strength conditioning coach at New York University Athletics. “You may not have the mobility to do the exercise, the joint strength to take the load you apply to it, or the timing of the nervous system to use the muscles in the correct order. These can all lead to poor mechanics, which typically leads to injury at some point.” So whether it’s chest day, leg day, or a long run, follow these steps to make the most of it.
Eat and Drink Right: Watch what you eat to avoid an energy crash. “Foods to avoid would be anything that is high in fat content, oils, processed foods, or anything that bothers your stomach,” he says. Avoid carbonated sodas, doughnuts, and hamburgers. The overarching rule: take something that you know won’t cause gastrointestinal distress, like bloating, heartburn, constipation, and indigestion.
Mosher recommends fresh fruit as a good option. He also notes that a cup of coffee isn’t a terrible idea before a workout since caffeine has also been shown to help with training sessions for a myriad of reasons: it helps to stall fatigue, stimulate the nervous system, and possibly speed recovery.
Get Hydrated: “Dehydration is not good for you,” says Mosher. “It decreases blood volume, decreases elasticity of connective tissue, and increases the risk of cramping. You should have some sort of water with you at all times.” Mosher recommends drinking your body weight in ounces of water a day as a good place to start when it comes to figuring out how much you should consume on a regular basis. “If you exercise a lot, then that number will go up, but it’s a great starting point.”
Always Warm Up: According to Mosher, warmup exercises are important for three reasons: They increase blood flow to the muscles (delivering the nutrients and oxygen needed for a workout), boost nerve conduction to the muscles (helping with your speed and coordination), and stimulate synovial fluid — the liquid that lubricates and protects your joints from wear and tear.
And the first step to a warmup is getting in the zone. “[Don’t] stop your warmup to check your phone for texts, status updates, or funny videos,” Mosher says. “Starting and stopping will not only set you up for failure because of the lack of concentration, but also extend a warmup beyond what is needed.” At the very least, never skip your warmup. “If you don’t have time to warmup, you don’t have time to train.”
Mobility Drills: The second part of your warmup should include mobility drills. “[These] allow you to keep moving and continue the process of preparing your body for the workout,” says Mosher. If you’re sitting for most of the day, opening up your hips and shoulders is extremely important. So while your body might have adapted to a sitting position during the workday — with rolled, forward shoulders and shortened hip flexors — waking up certain areas can get you back to a “more natural, neutral state” for your workout.
Here’s Mosher’s technique: on an upper-body day, try wall slides and/or over-the-head shoulder reaches. On a lower-body day, dive into 1/2 kneeling quad mobility and/or Spidermans.
Foam Roll: All warmups should involve a foam roller. Mosher describes the exercise as a “great way to start basic movement and increase body temperature.” It helps your body decrease tension in the muscles and loosen up any of the tight muscles/fascia that will be trained that day — as well as any tender points. “Upper-body days, I would focus on the lats, pecs, and posterior shoulders the most,” Mosher says. “Lower-body days, I would focus on the glutes, groin, hip flexors, and calves.”
And if rolling out your joints seems tedious or simple, Mosher says that’s a mistaken mindset when it comes to health. “Sometimes foam-rolling and mobility drills get boring, but skipping them too often can lead you down the path to injury because you did not prepare correctly,” he says.
Stability Drills: For the final phase of your warmup, jump into stability drills to create a great amount of stiffness in your midsection, which will help you to lift more, says Mosher. Because the body starts with stability in its center, if you don’t have a stable middle, your strength and energy will have to come from elsewhere — and that often decreases your mobility, weakening your workout and form (“The doom loop of injury,” Mosher says).
He lists some solid stability drills, including RKC (Russian Kettlebell) plank, which means total contraction of the body in a plank position 10 to 15 seconds at a time, Dead Bugs or Bird Dogs. “These drills are great because they help you learn to move around a solid midsection, while still breathing naturally,” Mosher says.
Go Through the Motions: Before going hard, you should try out the equipment you plan to use for the day. “You can always start with body-weight exercises first, like push-ups for bench day or body-weight squats for squat day.” And once you finish body-weight drills, you can progress to an empty bar, and then add weights incrementally as you need them. “There should always be two to three warmup sets before you start your working load for the day,” Mosher says. “This is the time to really focus on hammering good form, making sure you are moving as fluidly and perfectly as possible.” Once these sets are done, you’re ready to roll.
Jari Love – original creator of Get RIPPED! DVD series and group exercise classes. The hot-selling and critically acclaimed Get RIPPED! series enables individuals of any fitness level to burn up to three times more calories than the traditional weight-training program, and has received rave reviews from fitness critics throughout North America since the first title debuted in late 2005.