A few thoughts for athletes looking to progress their movement patterns and take their warm ups to the next level – written by Coach Taylor
Generally speaking, the first step in any fitness or workout regime is simply showing up; and doing so with some degree of intent, positivity and willingness to fully engage in the work or activity in hand. This may be in the physical technique, cognitive thought or even the social aspect of the activity.
Once you’re there and engaged, the second step becomes physical and mental preparation for the activity; and this is where we find an often overlooked opportunity for improving motor control and muscle activation or correcting movement pattern. This is an optimal time to work towards mastering the most basic movements and translating those principles to the activity at hand. Why does that matter? Virtuosity and personal pride aside, without reaching a level of mastery in movement we are unlikely to reach our full potential and/or be satisfied with a given training regime over time. Now, this may not be overly important to you, the general fitness enthusiast or those just out to have fun and get a little sweat on but for the few that it is… continue reading.
Some Fitness Theory
If you’ve ever heard of Malcom Gladwell’s ‘The Outliers’ or done some reading on mastery theory (i.e. how does one become a master in a given professional field, activity or sport) the research resoundingly suggests that practice makes perfect. So far as to say that approximately 10,000 hours of quality, fully engaged practice and effort in a given field may predicate a level of mastery. There are others that relate this directly to movement, in that mastery in a single movement requires 10,000 perfectly engaged repetitions; regardless of the weight.
The 80/20 Application
Now, I’m not saying that we should all look at or do everything with the sole goal of mastery or put forth the level of dedication in practice to achieve it in everything we do BUT what I am saying that if we want to improve or progress at an above average rate, in anything, we need to best utilize our productivity and time usage to maximize our productive capacity. Bare with me here… You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, that we should focus on the 20% of X that is most productive to Y; essentially cutting out the 80% and then repeating the process until we reach on optimal state of productivity or fulfillment. Here’s some an additional blog on the 80/20 application to fitness. If you don’t read it all, at least read the summary points! http://www.endofthreefitness.com/80-20-rule-fitness/
You can apply this principle to work, life, happiness, etc. and even your fitness or sport training by essentially cutting out the crap (least productive time or work) and replacing it with purposeful and quality work, reps, movement, etc. that most positively impact your future progress more so than immediate need for that day.
So let’s talk about fitness and our “warm ups”…
Warm ups should prepare us for the work that is ahead in terms of muscle awareness, muscle activation and motor control without taxing overly taxing our CNS system or impacting our targeted level of performance. Therefore, warm-ups should be purposeful and designed with intent. Further to that, they should warm up the positions and movements to ease our bodies into more dynamic movements or increased loads by breaking down the pieces and progressing us towards a targeted movement or starting weight. If you’re a part of a coach-led training facility or program, let’s hope this is being done for you. If you’re on you’re own, take the time to ensure you’re hitting all these points before exercise. At this point you’re mind is in the right spot and your body is primed, this is the sweet spot and spending a little more time in it can make a big difference on the road to mastery.
Let’s assume that the work we do during training time is productive and that we are taking care of our bodies post-workout with proper mobility, maintenance, recovery and nutrition…
Taking Them To The Next Level
For those looking to take their warms ups and movement progress to the next level, let’s think of this time as an optimal opportunity to chip away at those 10,000 hours or 10,000 perfect repetitions required for mastery. And let’s make it simple along the way.
- After some mobility, light plyometrics or muscle activation; set a clock and take 12-15 minutes each day to “warm-up”
- In this 12-15 minute window, take 3-4 functional or fundamental movements that apply directly or indirectly to the training to be performed in your session.
- Perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions of those movements with intent, engagement and the highest quality of efficiency you can achieve.
- Progressively increase the complexity and/or applications of them to best compliment your overall goals. This may (should) involve a variety of movement progressions, tempo or pause work and value the overall feeling through each repetition.
An Example: Every minute, for 12 minutes, rotate through three movement stations A,B and C (3-4 rounds of each) performing 10 reps at each.
This results in 30-40 quality repetitions of each movement per session, an average of 150-200 per week and close to 10,000 per year. Congrats, you are on your way to mastery.
Now, we don’t need to work on the same movements every day unless you are an absolute perfectionist. We need variety, so let’s say we hit a given movement once or twice a week (aka. the air squat or variation) and in two years, you will likely have mastered the movement and motor control required to be able apply that movement in a seemingly flawless manner to a variety of activities in both fitness and in general life; and likely do so with a high degree of virtuosity. http://journal.crossfit.com/2005/08/virtuosity-1.tpl
I know, A LOT of rambling for a seemingly simple example or point but it’s important to understand the theory behind the application. So… Take you’re warm up to the next level!
- Analyze your training productivity and apply the 80/20 principle. You’ll find your warm-up is likely the best opportunity to add productive value.
- Implement a short, simple movement warm up before training that focuses on quality mechanics, muscle activation and awareness.
- Introduce the element of time to kept it productive.
- Become a movement master and have it pay dividends in your workouts and general physical preparedness (GPP) for life outside the gym.
Maybe you don’t have the time during your training session every day because you actually have an outside life.. And “yes”, it is good to have that! Set aside some time at home, in the mornings/evenings or even post-workout to chip away and be fully engaged in the most simplest of movements. Warm up, pick a couple movements, set a clock and get it done.
Above all, have fun with it! Make you’re movement prep a positive reinforcement and motivational tool for the day prior to training.
Here are some additional links and some of my favorite sample movement warm ups, enjoy!
Sample Next-Level Warm-Ups
- An assessment of your body, how it feels, what your immediate mobility needs are for the work and training goals for the day.
- Get your general warm-up and mobility preparation done: dynamic stretching, movement, light gymnastics (pulling), plyometrics, stability work, etc.
- Target 90-100 perfect repetitions or movement patterns with full body activation and awareness that both apply to the training goals of the day and those more long-term.
Set the clock and get to work.
Here’s some of my templates and favorite things to work on for #3. Hopefully this will spur your own thinking…
Every minute, for 9-12min (3-4 rounds) for quality ~ 1:1 work/rest
- Minute 1: Air squats with slow decent, 10 reps
- Minute 2: Dumb bell or kettle bell push press/jerk, 10 reps
- Minute 3: GHD sit ups or nose-to-wall handstand hold, 10 reps/30s
- M1: KB/DB thruster with pause at bottom, 10 reps
- M2: Box jump over, 10 reps
- M3: Ball slam, 10 reps
- M1: Narrow overhead squat with 3s pause, 10 reps
- M2: Strict ring dip, 10 reps
- M3: Med ball clean, 10 reps
- M1: Double kettle bell goblet squat with pause, 10 reps
- M2: Alternating Dumbbell or kettle bell snatch, 10 reps
- M3: Burpees, 10 reps
- M1: Strict toes-to-bar, 10 reps
- M2: Double unders, 30-40 reps
- M3: Empty barbell thruster with pause, 10 reps