How & Why Is Warming Up Important Before Exercising? – Follow These 4 Key Steps

The warm up…in my opinion one of the most important elements of training, but how many of us honestly spend time going through an effective warm up routine? And no, doing a bunch of press-ups before jumping straight into a set of heavy bench press doesn’t count! So why is warming up important before exercising?

A good warm up doesn’t have to be boring, it’ll reduce the risk of injury which you’ll benefit in the long run and who knows you may actually be able to lift a little heavier too! It’s something I’ve definitely learnt to incorporate and appreciate more with my own training, ensuring I spend at least 10-15 minutes preparing the body for the workout to come.

Below I’ve highlighted a few points, in my opinion, of how and why we should warm up:

R.A.M.P Up Your Warm Up!

R.A.M.P – Whether you’ve seen this before or it’s completely alien to you, I will break down how following the R.A.M.P warm up protocol will benefit any workout routine. It will ensure that you are ready to attack any workout knowing that the body is fully prepared for the exercises ahead. So let’s break down exactly what R.A.M.P is and how it works:

R – (Raise): It all starts with getting the body warm by raising the body’s core temperature and heart rate. This allows the body to prepare for the workout ahead by also increasing rate of breathing, blood flow to the working muscles as well as allowing the working joints to release synovial fluid (a natural substance released between joints to reduce friction).

A – (Activate): Once the body has begun to warm up, we must next look at activating the muscle groups that are going to be used within the workout. You can make this specific to just the muscles that are going to be used or you can target the main muscle groups within the body.

M – (Mobilize): Just as we do with activate, we must look to warm up and mobilize the key joints that are to be used within the workout. Again, you can make this specific to just the joints that are going to be used or look to target all the main joints within the body.

P – (Potentiate): The final phase of warming up and one that I see a lot of people skip. Potentiate is to perform specific movements related to your workout to potentially improve performance. For example, before performing a 1 rep max deadlift you would look to complete a few sets at a lighter weight whilst gradually increasing the weight, to allow the body to prepare and adapt. Rather this then jumping straight into the 1 rep max lift and running the risk of injury or poor performance.

Now that I’ve briefly explained what R.A.M.P is, lets look further into the benefits of each stage and understand why they are important to an effective warm up.

Turn Up The Heat!

As mentioned above, raising the body’s core temperature and heart rate is vital to an effective warm up as well as various of other benefits:

  • Increase In Body Temperature: Warming up, as the name suggests, will cause your body temperature to increase. This creates a knock on effect of an increased heart rate, increasing both blood flow and oxygen, which help prepare the body for exercise as well as perform more efficiently.
  • Increase In Muscle Temperature: Ensuring the required muscles are ready for exercise is crucial. Not only can a cold muscle affect your range of motion, cold muscles usually means cold joints too, but it can also increase the risk of injury when they are put under strenuous pressure. Imagine a cold elastic band. When you first try to stretch the band it doesn’t stretch very far and it’s also a little tough to pull. If you warm the band up however, you are able to stretch the elastic a lot further as well as it feeling a lot smoother to pull. The same principle applies for your muscles!
  • Increase In Blood Temperature: Just as muscles perform better when warm, blood becomes more efficient. This is due to the oxygen levels increasing within the blood as body temperature increases and more oxygen is taken on board. All of this enables the body to supply its muscles at a much faster rate with larger volumes of oxygenated blood, allowing them to perform at a greater level.

Activate & Mobilize

Activating the correct muscles as well as ensuring the joints needed for your workout have the necessary mobility kind of work hand in hand without really thinking about it. As you look to warm up your targeted muscle groups, you tend to warm up the joints needed at the same time. For example, lets say you were warming up for a leg session, you’d probably look to activate the glutes, hamstrings and quads. Whilst going through exercises to activate those muscles you’d simultaneously be mobilizing the hip and knee joints without any extra work…winner!

So what exactly are the benefits of ensuring the muscles and joints are nice and warm before a workout?

  • Joint Mobility: Improves flexibility which increases a joints range of motion, reduces the risk of injury, reduces the likelihood of joint pains, helps to produce synovial fluid which reduces friction between joints and greater longevity in a joints tendons, ligaments as well as cartilage tissue.
  • Muscle Activation: Increases strength output by firing up the muscles required, improves mind/muscle connection and coordination, improves flexibility, reduces the risk of injury, reduces the likelihood of muscle pains and greater longevity of a muscles connective tissue.

Potentiate

A simple way to ensure you don’t skip this step is to ideally select a main compound movement within your workout (e.g squat, deadlift, bench press or military press), and complete a few warm up sets whilst gradually increasing the weight. During this phase, you are also able to focus on technique, control throughout the movement as well as speed and explosiveness.

Effective potentiating in a warm up will ensure the nervous system is properly prepared as well as ensuring the recruitment of the necessary muscle fibers. However, remember you are just preparing for a lift or set of exercises so don’t over do it and fatigue yourself.

Remember To R.A.M.P

Hopefully I’ve made the importance of warming up a little clearer, and I encourage you all to put together a warm up routine you can complete before your workouts. If you follow the R.A.M.P protocol you can’t go wrong. Finally, a point worth thinking about…if the world’s most successful athletes warm up before every workout they complete, then they must be doing something right. In that case, I’m sure we can all find time to warm up!

 

 

 

 

Posted by Tom in Tips & Tricks, 11 comments

The Walking Dead – Rise Of The Treadmill Zombie!

BEWARE OF THE WALKING DEAD!? Well maybe not quite as thrilling and intense as the TV series, but we do still have a new pandemic of treadmill zombies spreading the nation. (I can only speak for the UK…hopefully this hasn’t spread internationally yet or ever will!) You may have already seen them in your gym, or even worse, you may have already been infected by one of them and become a treadmill zombie yourself!

‘How do I avoid them or know if I already am one of them?’, I hear you ask. For those of you who are regular gym goers you’ll know exactly what I mean when I explain, but for those of you who may not be regular gym goers I’m going to help you to avoid them. However, and most importantly, I’m going to cover 3 reasons on how becoming part of this crazy uprising can actually have a negative effect on your training!

Did Someone Say Zombie!?

So who and what is a treadmill zombie? They’re those cardio gym bunnies you see every day who spend hours a week slaving away on the same treadmill. However, and this is where the nickname comes in, they set their treadmill incline level to the highest possible number but then hold onto the top of the machine because they can’t phsically walk at that incline level…obviously makes sense. Not only that, they set their speed level at a pace they can’t handle forcing them to hang on for dear life..simulating how a flailing zombie would walk (sigh).

How has this even become a thing!? When do we ever walk or run up hills whilst hanging onto something!? If you need to hold on whilst on an incline, then either the speed or the incline level need to be reduced. Find a setting that you can maintain a natural walking or running movement as if you were outdoors, without a machine to hold onto…just like a normal person.

Enough of my ranting! Apart from looking a little silly, there’s actually some negatives to bear in mind if you choose to train this way or are already doing so:

Negative #1 – Lower Calorie Burn

No matter how hard you think you are working, the calorie burn on the treadmill won’t be a true reading if you are holding on. Whichever setting you choose when using a treadmill, the calorie burn total shown is a prediction based on you running or walking on your chosen setting in a natural movement pattern without any assistance.

However, if you decide to select the highest incline setting there is at a fast walking pace whilst holding on…the calorie burn total shown will not be correct. You’re only fooling yourself to believe you are working harder than you think!

Negative #2 – Risk Of Injury

Holding on can make your form unnatural, which could result in muscle strain and discomfort in both your upper and lower body. As soon as you start holding onto the treadmill, especially on a high incline level, your arms will start to take most of the weight off of your body and possibly start to pull on your shoulders. Throw in a fast speed that you can’t maintain without holding on and suddenly your arms are being pulled from your shoulders as your body jolts to try to keep up.

Moving onto the risks in the lower body, you could end up with a muscle strain or cause yourself to pull a muscle. Walking at speed on a high incline is not something we do every day and probably not something any of us would come across on a daily basis. Therefore, the impact on your shins may create some discomfort and cause you to have shin splints. Again. throw in a speed that you can’t maintain without holding on and your legs are working double time to try keep up. Over working a muscle passed the point of discomfort could cause a strain or you to pull a muscle.

Not only is there a risk of injury from trying to emulate one of the walking dead whilst using a treadmill, but it also takes away the need for your body to work on its core stability and co-ordination whilst running or walking.

Negative #3 – Workout Intensity

Your workout will be a lot easier whilst holding on due to your upper body taking away some work from your legs, as previously mentioned in negative #2.

Doing so reduces the intensity and effort required resulting in a lower number of calories being burned during your workout…which also ties in with negative #1.

As you can see, your overall workout intensity will be massively reduced which will ultimately slow down your progress.

Don’t Be A Treadmill Zombie!

I’ve had my rant and I’ve given you 3 negative effects that can happen to your training if you choose to train like a member of the walking dead. So with those points in mind, as well as the fact you can look a little silly, and it’s not how we naturally run or walk…DON’T BE A TREADMILL ZOMBIE!

 

Posted by Tom in Tips & Tricks, 4 comments

Why Food Nutrition Is Important – My 5 Key Principles!

In today’s lifestyle it’s very easy to make fast and convenient unhealthy food choices, ladled with hundreds of calories and packed full of unpronounceable ingredients. (If you can’t say it you probably shouldn’t be eating it!) But do we ever stop to think about what these foods do to our body? In this post I’m going to take you through a few points, from my perspective, on why food nutrition is important to leading a healthier lifestyle as well as my 5 key principles to help you get started.

1. ‘You Can’t Out Train A Bad Diet!’

I often say nutrition is key and I’m a firm believer of it. Whether your goal is to trim down for that summer holiday just around the corner or you’re looking to add a couple of pounds of muscle mass to increase size and strength, the foods you choose to fuel your body with will impact on your results.

Hours of completing weekly workout routines can be hindered by not eating the right foods or even the right amount of food. You may have heard the phrase: ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’ and it’s true! Working out is the easy bit, it takes 1 hour out of your day. It’s the other 23 hours that you have to be aware of…allow me to break it down:

  • You exercise for 1 hour a day, leaving you with 23 hours.
  • Let’s say you get 8 hours of sleep per day, leaving you with 15 hours.
  • The average work shift is around 8/9 hours per day, leaving you with 6 hours.
  • Traveling to work there and back can take 1 hour per day, leaving you with 5 hours
  • That leaves you with 5 hours to eat, watch TV, socialise, whatever you may wish to do in your free time.

The point I’m trying to make is, working out for that 1 hour does not give you the go ahead to eat anything and everything thinking you’ve earned it. I say this because I’ve been that guy who used to think exactly like that, and as a result I saw slow progress. On the flip side, I’ve also been that guy who stuck to a nutrition plan and achieved results I never had before, which showed firsthand why food nutrition is important no matter how hard you workout!

2. Stay Hydrated!

Ensuring you drink plenty of water throughout the day is just as important, if not more important, than eating the correct foods. Taking on board at least 2 litres a day is a minimum with 3-4 litres being my recommendation if you’re regularly taking part in physical activities.

With the body being made up of around 70% water, staying hydrated has many benefits when it comes to keeping you healthy. Some of these benefits can include:

  • Weight Loss – drinking more water can help us eat less as it makes us feel full with thurst often mistaken for hunger.
  • Improves Digestion – taking on more water can help the body to breakdown food as well as flush out any waste products.
  • Provides Energy – when we’re feeling tired and a bit lethargic we could just be dehydrated…take on some water!
  • Improves Mood & Concentration – dehydration can lower our moods, reduce our focus and slow our reaction times.
  • Improves Performance – keeping hydrated before, during and after your workouts can help fight off fatigue and muscle cramps.

Don’t underestimate the power of being hydrated!

3. Avoid Added Sugars!

Now this is one that will probably take a little more effort from yourselves due to the fact that everything seems to have added sugar in it nowadays. However, when buying food products try to make a conscious effort to check the sugar content and opt for products with a lower sugar amount. You’ll be surprised with just how much sugar some foods have in them when you start looking and you’ll also get used to which products have a lower sugar content.

4. Calories In Vs Calories Out!

Losing weight and/or gaining weight simply comes down to – calories in vs calories out. All that means is if you consume more calories than you expend you will gain weight, if you consume the same calories as you expend your weight will stay the same and if you consume fewer calories than you expend you will lose weight.

So how many calories should you be eating? Unfortunately, everybody is different and it will require a little trial and error. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. However, there are many calorie calculators that you can use online that will help to give you a starting point based on a few factors e.g age, height and activity level.

Here’s one that’s free, I’ve used in the past and one that I trust —-> Grenade Fit Calorie Calculator

5. Track Your Food Intake!

Without actually tracking your food intake how can you possibly know if you’re eating enough or eating too much? Not only does logging your food intake allow you to see where you may be going right or wrong with your food choices, but it also makes you accountable. You’re also able to see trends in your eating habits e.g do you skip breakfast? Are there certain times in the day when you eat too much or maybe you’ll find something you could cut back on?

Just like calorie calculators, there are many food trackers available online as well as on your mobile as an app. The app that I use daily and the one you may have heard of before is MyFitnessPal. It’s free to use and easy way to start logging your food intake today.

Set Some Goals & Do It For You!

So there you have it, my 5 key principles to help you understand more about why food nutrition is important and to hopefully give you some guidance and information you may not have known or seen before. Remember:

  1. You can’t out train a bad diet! – it’s not just about putting in the effort during your workouts.
  2. Stay hydrated! – drink 2 litres a day at a minimum, 3-4 litres when working out.
  3. Avoid added sugars! – opt for foods with lower sugar content where possible.
  4. Calories in vs calories out! – use a calorie calculator to give you a starting point.
  5. Track your food intake! – use a food tracker and start being accountable for what you choose to eat.

If you only take 1 thing away from this post then I want you to set yourself some goals. Pick a couple of things you’re going to do differently or maybe it’s something you want to achieve. They could be as simple as proactively trying to drink more water each day to wanting to step on stage at a fitness competition. Whatever your goals do them for you, not for anybody else…now go smash them!

 

 

 

Posted by Tom in Tips & Tricks, 8 comments