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Should You & Your Clients Warm-Up?

Absolutely! Here’s why…

Maximizing Your Warm-Up
Everyone knows that a training session should begin with some variation of a warm-up. It’s not uncommon for warm-ups to be done with little effort or focus as often the intention is to only increase blood flow to the tissues that will be stressed in the training. While this is important to help decrease the risk of a soft tissue injury there is more we can do to maximize the effectiveness of the warm-up for the client and coach.

Establishing Joint Position
One of the keys to our warm-ups is a focus on the joint positions and ranges of motion required for the training exercises. When preparing to squat we know that deep hip flexion requires the femoral head to be able to roll back and down in the acetabulum. This motion can be limited if the pelvis is rotated anteriorly which brings the superior rim of the acetabulum closer to the femoral neck. The acetabulum becomes oriented into retroversion which limits hip flexion/internal rotation and thus the ability of the femoral head to slide back and down. Hip impingement can occur depending on the degree of the anterior rotation and subsequent amount of hip flexion we are trying to attain during the squat. To help prevent this from occurring our warm-up would include activities using the hamstrings and abs. These muscles posteriorly rotate the pelvis which creates a more optimal pelvic/acetabular joint position for squatting. We may follow this up with the
 modified pigeon stretch to allow the femoral head to slide back and down in the acetabulum so greater amounts of hip flexion can be achieved during training. This thought process can be taken to any training movement.

Creating Context
The movements that comprise the warm-up are a great opportunity to create context for the exercises/cues that will be used in training. We often begin using cues to teach the positions/movements in the warm-up that we will then use in training. The cues we use and landmarks we teach when coaching a hip bridge with reach will be similar to the cues we use and landmarks we teach during a kettlebell deadlift.

Using similar cues in the warm-up and in training puts the client in a better position to pick up a new movement later on because they already have context. They have learned what we are looking for in an easier movement and can transfer that knowledge to a more challenging movement. When clients have context they have a framework of how a movement is to be executed and what the goal is. It is easier to begin creating this context at the beginning of a workout when the client can take the time to go slow and focus. Once context has been created then less energy needs to be spent thinking about what to do and how to do it.

Assessment
Every warm-up is an opportunity for the coach to assess the client. Using a warm-up that is repetitive day-in and day-out allows the coach to see how a client is progressing and what their limitations are. At the same time decisions can be made about exercise selection. Seeing a client not have full shoulder flexion during the warm-up would tell the coach that a pure vertical press like a military press should be substituted for a landmine press where they can train within their available range of motion. Understanding their limitations is key for picking exercises that will be safe and effective for the client. 
The warm is the perfect time to talk with the client and gauge their readiness for the day. Asking someone how they slept, how their day was, or simply how they’re feeling can give you a lot of information about their readiness to train. Athletes change day-to-day depending on how all the variables of life affect them. Being aware of this is one piece of giving them a great experience each time we work with them.

Preparing for Stress
The types of stresses we impose during training change session-to-session. Depending on the main stress that the client will face in a session the warm-up can be a lower amount of that stress. Maximum velocity sprinting requires primarily force production that is elastic/isometric in nature. To prepare for that type of stress, different plyometrics such as double and single leg hops could be incorporated into the warm-up. This would cause the tissues to function in a similar fashion to what will be required of them in training. Structuring the warm-up to include components that mimic the biomotor and biodynamic demands of the training session is a great way to prepare for subsequent stressors.

In Summary
Our time working with a client is limited so it’s important we get as much as we can from each moment with them. A warm-up has an important purpose and requires structure. Purposes include:

  1. Establishing joint positions so clients have appropriate mobility to execute training safely.
  2. Teaching clients the positions that will allow them to do the movements effectively.
  3. Begin to prepare their body for the types of stresses they will encounter in the training session.
  4. Allow a coach to assess the client’s movement.