What’s in a Warm Up?

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Want to improve in the gym? Begin with your warm up. It might not be the most exciting part of your workout, but maaaaaaan does a good warm-up go a long ways!

While there isn’t one perfect routine to perform before every workout, there are some principles you can follow to make the most of the 15 or so minutes before you begin.

The most important part of your pre-workout routine may seem obvious, but it’s also easy to overthink: get sweaty. If your body temperature is up to the point that you’ve got a good sweat going, you’ll be moving about as well as you can hope for given the time constraints of a class. “Warm it up, Kane.”

Don’t be so quick to shed your layers. Especially in the winter, keep those sweats on throughout the warm-up. Those extra layers will only help you get going more quickly. Remember that the goal of the warm-up is to get sweaty. Don’t start trying to cool off at the first sign of a little warmth!

Save the in-depth mobility sessions for later in the day! A little light stretching after you’re warm can be helpful if you need to get a specific part of your body moving (something for the shoulders if you’re going overhead, some hip work before you squat, etc.) but the bulk of your mobility work should be done some time after you are done with your workout. I like foam rolling before workouts because it’s not very intense and does a good job of getting larger, more general areas moving.

Use movements that don’t unduly challenge your range of motion too far, or involve much impact. If you’ve been sitting at work all day, or are fresh out of bed, going for a run or getting after some double under practice might be a little much. 5-10 minutes of rowing or biking would be a better, less strenuous use of your time. Get those muscles and joints to gradually work through a full range and they’ll love you for it.

We always have warm-ups programmed in our classes, but hopefully these pointers can help guide your further productivity the next time you show up with a few extra minutes to spare.

What Are We Trying To Do Here?

11878919_1050844324933763_6988515572939100698_oWhich one of these examples best fits the direction you want to go in the gym?

Example A:

- New PR’s/Faster Times

- Getting Stronger/Going Faster/Working Harder

- Becoming a “Better Mover”

Example B:

- Becoming a “Better Mover”

- Getting Stronger/Going Faster/Working Harder

- New PR’s/Faster Times

One is sexier than the other and, for the world of instant gratification we live in, is much more attractive. One is a little more vanilla and, for a lot of us, takes some time before we even notice a difference.

I’m sure you see where this is going, but guess which example we support?

One of these paths leads to longevity and the other leads to destruction. We choose to play the long game and we hope you do as well.

Along with making your safety at the gym paramount, we strive to make everyone who comes through our doors better movers.

We believe in quality over quantity. We would rather have you finish a workout last, if it means you execute the movements with perfect form, than finish first with bad form.

Just because your body has been able to “take it” up to this point doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

Look at the approach you take in other areas of your life: doctor/dentist appointments, changing the oil in your car, taking out a life insurance policy.

You can justify why taking precautionary measures in these area’s is the smart thing to do. Then why do you decide to take a different approach when it comes to your fitness?

The beautiful thing about mobility is that you can start anytime and you can do it anywhere. For many mobility exercises you don’t even need any equipment other than what God gave you.

“Okay, I want to improve my mobility but I don’t know the next steps to take?”

You don’t need to be a doctor to know what areas of your body don’t move the best. If you can’t touch your toes, start with some hamstring work. If you can’t support an empty bar overhead, work on your shoulder mobility. If you can’t keep your chest vertical throughout a squat, maybe you should work on making your hips more mobile.

Of course if you have had any type of injury in the past, or are dealing with one now, the first place to look is to professional advice from a doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor.

As coaches, we try to give you some of the more common mobilization techniques, hitting the areas where most of us need more range of motion. In  doing these, you might not always “feel the burn,” which you then might interpret as, “I’m not working.” Feeling like you’re not working doesn’t mean that the exercise is not working. It may just mean that you are mobile in that specific area of your body, so your joints and muscles aren’t under a lot of tension. Don’t get pissed because you can’t feel anything, rather, look for ways to keep your mobility in that area what it currently is or improve your mobility in that area by looking for a different variation of the movement.

We often talk about how well children move. For example, watch any child under the age of five squat. It is immaculate. But over the years the “use it or lose it” approach definitely applies to the way we move.

This does not mean that you are destined to remain how you are right now, forever. You can reclaim your mobility, but it might take more dedication and time than it did ten years ago.

We can only push you guys to work on mobility so much, the desire to improve must come from you, too. We have many areas we can help you in your endeavor to become a better mover, but you need to want it.

Why meatheads need yoga

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Can you deadlift 400 pounds, but not touch your toes? Are you able to do dozens of pull-ups, but unable to reach your back in the shower? Are pistols and handstands out of the question because it is uncomfortable or impossible due to range of motion deficiencies?

How are your overhead squats? Are you able to keep your heals on the ground, getting full depth on your squat, all while keeping the weight centered over your head?

Some, or should I say a lot of us laugh or snicker when asked how often we do mobility or yoga. But we will puff our chests out and brag about the countless hours of lifting that we have done in the past week.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. The difference between those who can consistently snatch 200+ pounds isn’t strength, but flexibility.

I would bet on someone with mediocre strength and good mobility, over someone with great strength and poor mobility any day. Why? Because a high-powered athlete with poor range-of-motion is going to be nursing injuries on the sideline.

What does the Eat Well challenge have to do with my mobility?

For those of us that participated in the Eat Well challenge, not only did we improve our diet and overall health, but more importantly we learned the power of discipline. We saw the effect of our channeled energy towards one main goal. We now know what foods our bodies can tolerate, and which ones we cannot.

The Eat Well challenge had no shortcuts. There wasn’t instant gratification in the sense of that quick fix, like you get from that slice of cherry cheesecake.

You had to put in your time, punching the clock day in and day out, as you marched towards day 45 where your goal would be complete.

I dare you to do the same with your mobility!

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My best recommendation would be to go to a yoga class. This takes the guess work out of trying to figure out what to do, for us meatheads out there.

One or two yoga classes will not give you a bodyweight snatch. But over time an active yoga practice will give you quicker recovery, better focus, increased balance and fewer injuries that keep you from WOD’ing. The list of benefits goes on.

Just know that you have to put your time in. Yes, you will feel amazing when you walk out of yoga each and every time, but the gains pay for themselves.

Hip Flexor Health

1507563_934326269918903_4151410308638686184_nWinter in Minnesota tends to bring out the demonic behavior in our hip-flexor or iliopsoas muscles.

Where is that located and what am I talking about?

The iliopsoas muscles originate from the lower back and pelvis and insert into the thigh bone (femur). The iliospsoas is the main mover in the hip flexor region.

Winter sports that can enflame or aggravate this muscle region are hockey and cross-country skiing due to the repetitive strides an athlete takes.

Also, in the winter the couch tends to hold us hostage more than in the summer months, causing us to tighten up more or to not take the appropriate time to loosen up before exercising.

Personally speaking from having such tight hip-flexors in my hockey playing days that could pop out or strain from something as silly as sneezing, this is not something to mess around with.

Injury to your hip-flexors aren’t of the excruciating variety, but more of the constant, annoying type that take forever to heal. And just when you think you are in the clear not having had any flare ups, BOOM, there you go and re-aggravate it and you are back to square one.

If you are a desk jockey in your life away from the gym, then listen up to what this article from physioadvisor.com had to say. When you are seated, your knees are bent and your hip muscles are flexed and often tighten up or become shortened. “Because we spend so much of our time in a seated position with the hip flexed, the hip flexor has the potential to shorten. Then, when you are in a hurry because you are running to catch a bus or a plane, or you trip and fall, the muscle could become stretched. Here’s this stiff, brittle muscle that all of a sudden gets extended, and you could set yourself up for strain or some hip flexor pain.”

Ways to stay away from the buzz-saw of this injury are to stretch regularly, especially if when you get out from your desk and you feel like a nursing home patient walking over to the water-cooler. Here are a few awesome videos from our friend Kelly Starrett:

Extension of a Psoas Flavor

Don’t Go In the Pain Cave

A few quick and easy ways to warmup before workouts:

- While walking pull one knee to your chest and hold for a one count, keep alternating legs from one end of the gym to the other.

- While walking from one end of the gym to the other, march your right leg up in front of you to ninety degrees and then swing it out to your right ninety degrees. Repeat on your left side and so on.

- While kneeling, stretch your right foot out almost as far as you can, and then drive your left hip to the floor, while trying to work your right shin to come to vertical. Rinse and repeat.

This is the only body that you are going to have, so you might as well take care of it!

Make Mobilizing Part of Your Daily Routine

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If you’re like me when it comes to the gym, you’d rather show up, lace up your shoes, and get down to business. Who wants to spend time warming up when there are weights to throw around?

Unfortunately, this is only a fantasy. We all need to put in the work mobilizing to stave off injuries and ensure that we preform at our best.

This is why it’s important to make working on your mobility part of your daily routine.

Whether this means subscribing to Kelly Starrett’s Daily Rx, signing up for yoga three times a week, or using bands and lacrosse balls while you watch the Wild game, you should pick what works for you and stick to it.

Here are some mobility exercises you can do on your own at home or in the gym:

Shoulder mobility.

Hamstring mobility.

Hip mobility. 

Posterior chain mobility.