I used to be one of those people who spent 30mins mobilising and rolling around on the floor with a piece of high-density foam before I dared touch a weight.
Worst of all, I used to get my clients doing it too.
What a waste of time.
I haven't done any of that stuff in years and I still manage to get injured less often than the people who do all this ritualistic nonsense.
Why is that?
I was discussing warmups on a Zoom call with a client recently and I hit on a metaphor that really made sense.
A good warmup is like a conversation between you and your body.
You have to listen to your body and understand what it's prepared to give you - both the ranges of motion it will allow you to access and the amount of force it's ready to produce.
At the same time, it's your task to set the topic and tell your body what you expect from it.
Tightness and pain are sometimes hasty reactions which fade as your nervous system figures out what you're asking it to do.
And sometimes they're firm reminders that your request was unreasonable and you need to back off.
Understanding the difference is about adopting the mindset that a workout is not about trying to dominate your body - you are your body, after all - but getting the most out of it without creating insult or injury.
Jumping straight into to your working sets is like throwing an awkward, unexpected question. You may get a useful response if the conditions are right, but it could just create confusion.
But you don't want to spend too much time warming up, because that would be like rambling on without getting to the point.
Sometimes this process is slower or faster depending on how well recovered you are, how much sleep you got, and how much caffeine you perked your nervous system up with.
Most importantly, you have to take ownership of this process:
- Only you can know the feedback your body is giving you, others can only infer what's going on.
- There is no single "correct" way to warmup, a good warmup for you might be a bad warmup for someone else.
- You are the custodian of your own body, protecting yourself from insult and injury is about how you interact with it.
When you start that process, think about paring it down to the minimum required to get you feeling ready to do a productive workout.
Don't waste time on mobilisations unless they help you achieve a range of motion that is absolutely necessary to perform an exercise safely and effectively.
Most of the time you are better off focusing your range of motion on what your body can give you based on your joint structure and proportions. It will get better over time without explicitly working on it.
Don't feel like you have to torture yourself with a foam roller either, only go after trigger points when you can diagnose a clear issue that is detracting from your quality of life or your workout performance.
And please, do not pay attention to people on YouTube and Instagram who give you checklists and absolute rules to follow like the "BEST" warmup or things you should "NEVER" do without reference to specific conditions that may relate to you and your body.