Note: This short post comes from the preface of a new book/training program I’m working on, which we’ll be releasing by the end of summer 2021. I have the first draft written, but I’m working with a few colleagues over the next two months to dial in the programming.
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is why it’s important to warm up, what you should do to warm up, and all that other warm-up crap, but I don’t really feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.*
That’s I lie actually, I do feel like going into it. And in this book, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Warming up may not be the sexiest topic. Nobody dreams of having a perfect warm-up the way they might yearn for six pack abs. But I’ve been particularly interested in the way we warm up for several reasons, and I think you should be interested too.
With an effective warm-up, you can avoid unnecessary nagging muscle pain and injury, improve your posture, and move like a 20-year-old again. This, of course, will set you up for enhanced results in the gym. A great warm-up makes everything you do in the gym and away from the gym better. It’s a skill that improves all other skills, a meta-skill.
Look, I know I’ve been given a list of 25 things I “should” do before training or at home in my spare time to keep my body functioning properly. And even I, a freaking trainer, wouldn’t do it.
Among trainers, discussions of what to do for a warm-up become nearly as complex as the workout itself. I’ve seen drawn up warm-ups that take 30-45 minutes. I’ve read books, done courses, and attended lectures on recovery and injury prevention, only to apply very little because the concepts came without applicable prescriptions. A concise, structured warm-up can be the place to apply all these injury-preventing and performance-enhancing methods.
While trainers talk about long, drawn-out warm-ups as intricate as their programming, I see most people lean back on the same “warm-up” they’ve been doing for years, consisting of a few stretches from high school gym class.
This is followed by a familiar pattern: nagging pains, tweaks, the inability to move your body through proper and sufficient ranges of motion. You might have to take days off of the gym to heal. Or you try to train through it and get a serious injury: chronic shoulder pain, back pain that leads to hernias, or other injuries.
Either because it takes too long, it’s too complex, or it’s not easily applicable. In this book I want to build a bridge between the conversations between coaches and what’s actually happening in gyms across the world every day and while empowering you to take sustainable steps to improve your warm-up, and ultimately your body.
Yes, I will cover many strategies, from how to improve the basics like simple stretching, to “cutting edge” methods adopted from places like the Postural Restoration Institute. Through it all, I encourage you to try stuff out, see what works best for you, and discard the rest. The goal is not for you to have an absolutely perfect warm-up, it’s for you to learn how to build an effective warm-up into your routine so you can reap the benefits of consistent effort.
You’ll learn many of the top strategies used by the best performance coaches in the world. But, I’ll put them in a format you can actually understand, and apply. As the old adage goes, the best program in the world is the one that you do.
My goal is to give suggestions and strategies that are easy to follow and you can add right into your training routine right away. I hope that there’s a low barrier to entry so that you can start to immediately make positive changes. If by the end you’re thinking, “this is too complicated for me to apply,” then I have failed.
For many, warming up before training is little more than an obligation, something you do the bare minimum for simply because it’s accepted that warming up is helpful. However, a mindless warm-up isn’t doing anything to actually prepare you for training. The warm-up should be something we do consciously, and yes, quickly, in order to enhance our training, our results, and our lives.
One of my favorite maxims is that 50% of what we “know” is wrong, we just don’t know which 50%. While some exercises, categories, and practices in this book may turn out to be not the most effective, the concepts behind the methods will always be important.
For example, improving posture is one of my guiding concepts for an effective warm-up. Now, there are one hundred and one different ways to go about this, and every year it seems there’s a new certification or course on methods to do so. There will likely turn out to be better methods than I portray here, but as long as you understand the purpose and principles behind the methods, you can decide which ones will work for you, and which ones to discard.
Finally, like any book, it’s only useful if you take something from it to make a change. I don’t expect you necessarily to follow all of this to a tee. As long as you learn one applicable method and add it to your training routine, then you’ve succeeded. Maybe in a month, you’ll add one more element. Consistent application over the course of months will help alleviate aches and pains, improve your muscle contractions, and improve your posture.
*Hat tip: this line is a deviation from the opening line of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, my favorite author.