A couple of days ago I was down at the gym for leg day while doing a push/pull/leg week. It was very warm outside and humidity was high so the short walk almost made me break a sweat. When at the gym I made some dutiful warm-up exercises, and then went straight to heavy dumbbell squats. At the finish of the last set I was a bit tired and didn’t have 100% focus on my form so for a brief, just like a tenth of a second, moment, I lost form and bowed my back. I almost immediately I felt something was wrong. My lower back started hurting really bad and felt very stiff, I walked with my back arched to prevent the pain from shooting out in the entire back. This could have been prevented with better warm-up and good form.
The coming 3 days was a nightmare. You don’t realise how much you depend on and use your back until you cannot use it properly. Bending down and picking up stuff, taking plates out of the cupboard, it even hurt when I was lying down!
Thanks to some good mobility exercises and a 90 minute massage my back is better, but not back to a 100%.
What is a warm-up?
Well, a warm-up is a session that you should, no must, do before any physical activity. A well balanced warm-up consists of light cardiovascular exercises, stretches and strength drills. The keyword here is light.
Effects of a warm-up
The light cardiovascular exercises, stretches and strength drills will gently prepare your body by increasing heart rate and circulation as well as losing up the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. The cardiovascular exercises focus on bringing up the heart rate and increase circulation while the stretching and strength drills prepare the muscles for the physical activity to come.
In my opinion, 5 minutes is the least amount of time you have to spend on your warm-up but you should aim for 10. If you have really sore muscles from prior exercises you may want to increase the time as well. Be flexible with the time but don’t go under 5 minutes.
When you do an exercise, especially if you are doing it for the first time, be sure to pay great attention to the instructions given on how to perform it. If no instructions are given and you don’t know how to do the exercise, there are plenty of instruction videos on YouTube. Just search for the exercise and see how you should perform it.
I also think it’s a good idea to do the exercises in front of a mirror, so that you can track your form during the entire progression of the exercise. If you feel you’re going to heavy, get rid of some weight and try again. Form before weight. Always.
I hope this post will make you take warm-up and good form more seriously. Not only will it prevent you from hurting yourself, but you will also be able to train more, since you don’t have to do rehab training! And remember, 5-10 minutes is not that much at the end of the day.