I used to start my weight-training workouts the same way. Every single time. The same simple warm up. No matter the training programme that I was following, the exercises that were a part of my plan or the level of intensity in which I was required to apply.
I used the Cross-Trainer (Elliptical). 5 minutes of medium-intensity. It got the blood flowing throughout my body so I thought, it sent a message to my body that I would be engaging in a new activity, and it “warmed up” my legs and arms so that I was ready to train.
Never did I wonder as to why I never felt fully ready to then go and squat, or as to why the muscles that were meant to be under focus in the exercise would not fire or activate.
Even “lighter warm up sets” did not seem to cut it; regardless of the weights or rep scheme I used and the mind-muscle connection that I ensured was present.
I just couldn’t seem to wake-up my Neuromuscular System. It just didn’t feel engaged, I didnt feel that I had any adequate level of mobility and I would end up reaching my working sets feeling unprepared and worst of all, weak.
I’ve come to realise: all of my warm ups, up until ever so recently, were all just a waste of time.
I’ve realised that the key to better strength, better muscle activation and for overall workout results, is to ensure that I prime my body.
Priming, or in other words: to fire up my Nervous system; whereby the nervous system and muscular system are ready for the workout ahead. In essence, I must ensure that my nerves and muscles are working together. In unison.
If I do not reach this state, the targeted muscles do not activate appropriately, and as such, I am weaker as my muscular recruitment is minimalized. Or at the very least, the wrong muscles activate, as my stronger muscles intervene to overcome the resistance. This defeats the purpose. I’ve come to realise that getting these things optimized are the most important factors in strength and muscular development. And so my recent results have shown.
Now I can see where I went wrong: I was employing a cardiovascular based warm up that was not providing the stimulus required to engage the full spectrum across my Nervous System.
But it’s not limited to only me; you only have to look around a Gym, or run a quick search in YouTube, to see how ineffective and inappropriate the majority of “weight training warm ups” are.
The common Personal Trainer also recommends that ahead of a weight training or physique development workout, a cardiovascular-based warm up is undertaken. The Rower, a Stationary Bike, an Elliptical, time on the Treadmill etc.
It’s no wonder I fell into this trap…
The truth of the matter is, in order to have an effective physique development workout, you need to tell your body to prepare for a physique development workout.
If you are training for cardiovascular health, then continue to employ a cardiovascular workout. A different warm up for a different goal.
But if you’re not, and are looking to develop your physique and develop strength and muscle mass, you need to warm up accordingly.
Walking into the gym with the goal of transforming your physique, but going over to a cardio machine; will hamper the results of your weight training workout; you’re not preparing your body in a way where it can optimally perform.
The proper warm up for weight (resistance training) is therefore not cardiovascular, it’s neuromuscular.
Neuromuscular warm ups should follow a general preparation phase which centres on specific movement patterns across the major joints of the body: the shoulders, the hips and the knees.
The type of movement patterns I am referring to are: Leg swings, Arm swings, Unloading the Knees (Bodyweight Squats), Bodyweight Laterals, Bodyweight Lunges and Floor Reaches. These are the type of movements that activate the Neuromuscular system most appropriately.
5 minutes, 10 being more preferable, of these movements will make all the difference.
I routinely now undertake a 10 minute circuit of these movement patterns before all of my resistance training sessions. My Compound Movements have dramatically improved: my Squat depth, control and strength has increased, as well as my Overhead Press, as well as the activation of my smaller muscle groups in my Isolation movements (Lateral Raises, Rear Deltoid Raises, Tricep Pushdowns, Bicep Curls etc.)
And if we think logically it makes sense: weight training workouts have nothing to do with the cardiovascular system of the body. So why would we train this separate system?
I think by now it’s safe to say that your workout will only be as effective as the warm up that proceeds it.