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Ahhh, the elusive warm-up. Everywhere you go there is someone who has the “best” warm-up around. While I’ve seen some really good warm-ups out there, I doubt there really is a “perfect warm-up.” Like most things in rehab and fitness a warm-up should be catered around the individual, their specific needs, goals and what the workout is going to contain.
It’s pretty common knowledge that a warm-up should contain 4 basic things:
- Increase the heart rate and respiratory rate
- Increase body temperature
- Take your joints through a full range of motion
- Contain exercises specific to the workout to be performed
All of this is fantastic stuff. As a therapist I feel the warm-up is a fantastic time to work on several other aspects that are important from a therapy point of view. These are:
1. Mobility Drills Specific to Your Own Limitations
Everyone is an individual and each person is going to present with a different limitation. Some people have a poor snatch technique that is attributed to one stiff ankle while another person might have poor shoulder mobility.
Finding out where your limitations are is a vital part of progressing safely with your exercise program and also becoming more efficient with the movements you wish to master. I’ve posted way too much assessment information through my site which you can find some of HERE. This part of the warm-up should come first and I’ll usually recommend spending 5-10 minutes working these issues before starting the main warm-up (Or warming up with the rest of the box).
2. Squat, Deadlift and Overhead Mobility / Range of Motion
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Hey Sally, how are you doing today? How about you spend 15 minutes warming up on the bike / elliptical / treadmill / arm bike and I’ll be right with you.
How many times do you hear this at a traditional physical therapy clinic? In the strength and conditioning realm, using a warm-up like this is absolute heresy. For some reason it still persists in the world of physical therapy though.
I’ve got to be honest, I’ll use the stationary bike and cardio equipment if I feel it’s really needed for my patients (cardio for chronic pain or nerve gliding effects – stationary bike for improving knee flexion in total knees). However, I feel a pang on guilt giving this to other patients who could really benefit from a well done dynamic warm-up.
It definitely takes more education, time and work on the therapist’s part to teach a warm-up like this but I also feel that the benefits are well worth it. I base my warm-ups on the joint-by-joint approach popularized by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle. It also fits well with my treatment which usually contains a heavy dose of SFMA guided exercise and manual therapy. This is also a tremendous tool for post op lower extremity patients once they’re clear from a protocol perspective to get started on these movements.
Here is a video of a common lower extremity dynamic warm-up I use in the clinic for my patients. Feel free to steal it and use the video as a refresher for patients who forget the movements (I usually send them home with a paper with the exercises written as well). Sorry in advance for the horrendous audio quality. Here’s me in action teaching the dynamic warm-up.
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