How Your Warm Up Can Make Or Break You…

You’d be the surprised how many times I’ve actually been asked, “Do we even need to warm up?”

The short answer, is yes. There are many benefits to warming up before exercise, particularly intense exercise, but the real issue here is what the warm up consists of, and whether it actually helps or hinders our training performance.

Why warm up?

Warming up prepares our cardiovascular, neuromuscular and respiratory systems for physical activity. It also prepares us mentally which is particularly important for sports or activities requiring complex and intense movements.

To go a little deeper, the physiological benefits of warming up include:

• Increased muscle temperature improves muscular elasticity.
• Increased core body temperature increases blood and oxygen flow to working muscles.
• Reduces lactic acid build up.
• Increases speed of nerve impulses.
• Ability of Connective tissue to elongate is enhanced.
• Muscles are able to exert greater power.
• Secretion of synovial fluid is enhanced and therefore lubricants the joints.
• Reduces the risk of injury to muscles and joints.

So we’ve established warming up is not only a good thing, it is important to implement at the start of our workout. But how should you warm up?

Raise the Pulse

Try to select movements which use large muscle groups and are limited in range of motion and impact, eg. An elliptical cross trainer machine in the gym, or even a slow jog if outside. Build up to include movements similar to those you will use in the main session and bring your Heart Rate (HR) to just below the intensity of the main session.

man-and-woman-with-elliptical-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobilize the Joints

It’s common for our ‘normal’ mobility to become restricted, either from sleeping or even our daily activities. To regain this mobility and prepare for intense exercise, start with small movements, and build up to full range of motion. For example, balancing on one leg, then kicking the other leg out straight, gradually increasing the height of the kick with each repetition is a great way to mobilize the hip joint (aka forward leg wings).

Front-leg-Swings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stretching – Dynamic vs Static

Traditionally, static stretching of muscles has been commonplace in warm ups for activities of both individuals and even sporting teams, to increase flexibility and reduce risk of injury. This involves holding a stretch typically between 15 – 30 seconds.

But in recent years, Static stretching during a warm up has been gradually replaced by dynamic stretching, with scientific studies backing up the suggestion that dynamic stretching better prepares the body for athletic performance, while static stretching can actually impede performance. Recent research has found that static stretches may actually decrease the strength in the stretched muscle for up to an hour. A study conducted in 2007 by Fletcher et al showed that 50m sprint performance was worse when using static stretches beforehand, than that of using a solely dynamic stretching approach.

Dynamic stretching involves the movement of muscles and joints without holding the position for longer than a second, and focuses more on the neuromuscular system of the muscle complex. Rather, it involves repetitive contractions of the agonist muscle to produce quick stretches of the antagonist muscle and thereby very specifically prepares the muscle tissue for active contraction and relaxation, similar to that required for sporting situations.

An example of a dynamic stretch, is repeatedly doing a shallow lunge while twisting the torso toward the leading leg.

lunge-with-twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another benefit of dynamic stretching is that it maintains the increased HR level and core body temp better than static stretching, which has a relaxation effect which ultimately brings the HR down. I like to integrate dynamic stretching with activities which mimic those about to be performed in the session, such as running through different drills on a speed/agility ladder (gradually building the speed and intensity), with dynamic stretches mixed in.

This doesn’t mean that static stretching shouldn’t have a place in your overall health and fitness regime, as it is extremely beneficial when used after exercise the reduce muscle soreness and increase flexibility.

Just rethink holding those stretches for prolonged periods next time you prepare yourself for that football practice session or early morning triathlon training. Instead, replace it with a good collection of dynamic movements involving all your major body joints and you’ll be better prepared to perform at your best.

 

 

 

When Hitting Something Is A Good Thing…

We live in stressful times, no doubt about it. The emotions and physical effects we experience from stressful situations have evolved exponentially since Neolithic times when stress was simply the body’s natural response to danger. Among the vast family of negative responses to modern day stress, frustration and anger are like ugly step siblings - related to each other and always a bad influence on you.

 

Not releasing stress of this kind can have extremely harmful effects. If suppressed or harbored, these emotions can adversely affect us at a cellular level, causing serious health complications such as organ failure, cancer and heart disease, not to mention a danger to others if a sudden uncontrollable anger outburst results in physical harm to someone nearby. The feeling of wanting to hit something is the most common expression of anger release, so why not do just that and get fit at the same time by integrating it into your workout?!

The most common example combative fitness is boxing. Whether it’s flailing away on a heavy bag, or ducking and weaving some focus pads, boxing inspired training is always a hit (pun intended) when it comes to maximizing motivation levels, while and minimizing stress levels. Kick boxing and other martial arts are also being turned into safe versions of fitness for all shapes and sizes. Women in particular love it, with the added self defense element of boxing giving a sense of power, and more confidence in their daily lives.

So if striking with your hands can produce such benefits, imagine using your whole body to drive a heavy bag to the floor, landing on top in the most dominant fashion, bouncing to your feet and repeating the sequence until your legs are heavy and lunges are burning.

This is Rugby Method...a new system of fitness which contains a combative element, together with various other enjoyable activities inspired by training methods of the increasingly popular sport of rugby.

So next time you are feeling anger, frustration, and in need of a sweat...take it out on the tackle bag at a Rugby Method session. You’ll feel a truckload better, and nobody gets hurt in the process!

Why ‘Functional’ Is The New Black

Summer is not just around the corner, it's standing awkwardly on our front patio, and anybody with the slightest intention of frolicking outside in minimal clothing is looking for the latest method of achieving a body to suit the season. When it comes to working out, there is an overwhelming number of options to send your lunges, muscles and sweat glands into overdrive, especially here in LA.

While the number of gym memberships remain steady, and yoga studios are filling up by the day, it appears that there has also been a rise in the amount of fitness enthusiasts seeking different dimensions to their training, particularly outdoors. More and more people are trying various types of workouts, in hopes of reaching their fitness goals in the most enjoyable and motivating ways possible. This is evident with the emergence of certain apps like Class Pass and Level Sports, which help connect people with a variety of training methods aiming to mix it up.

We are also experiencing an influx in participants of Social Sports such as Flag Football, Beach Volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee to name a few. Organized sports and outdoor group sessions is not only a great way to make new friends and have fun, but is also a excellent way of exercising without it feeling like a chore. The more competitive the games become, the more intense the workouts tend to be and also the demand for athleticism. And so the quest to be more athletic and capable of successfully performing various disciplines is becoming increasingly popular, to the point of even specifically training to prepare for, or to improve at these respective activities.

The desire for people to become more "complete athletes" is apparent with the crossfit boom. Combining weight lifting, with running, bodyweight exercises and plyometrics is not only helping people achieve their fitness goals, but making them feel like more of an athlete, and hence, more competent and powerful in life. Doing more 'functional' exercises at the gym is one way of helping someone become more athletic. For example, many weight training machines are one dimensional, only requiring you to move the resistance through one plane of motion, sometimes only using one joint, such as a leg extension machine. While this might be a great way to bring out the striations in your Rectus Femoris for that upcoming bodybuilding competition, you probably want to do a multi-planar lunge pattern (lunging in front, then to the side and then rotating to lunge diagonally backward) with dumbbells if you want to be better prepared for that weekend flag football match, or just be more athletic in general.

Performing more functional movements not only helps build strength, power and agility to enable us to move more efficiently, but also optimizes injury prevention through enhanced proprioception of joints as we mimic more closely the type of movements we would perform when playing sports or complicated activities.

For the ultimate athletic experience, try performing these more complicated and functional exercises with the added stimulus of catching, passing, or hitting a ball. This now brings into play peripheral vision and hand-eye coordination, which is obviously a big part of most team sports, particularly ball games.

So get with the program this summer and try to incorporate more functional exercises into your workouts. You can still achieve that pool party body you desire while also feeling like an all-conquering athletic badass too!