There are numerous methods and tools we’ll use to train clients – kettlebells, TRX, bodyweight exercises to name a few. And these methods will likely change and evolve overtime with the introduction of new ideas, continuing education and better equipment.
What won’t change are the principles of effective programme design. These are the tried and tested elements of the programme that we absolutely need to honour when designing clients’ programmes.
Doing so ensures we’ve got all the pieces of the fitness puzzle covered. And that your clients’ programmes are as safe and effective as they can possible be.
“Methods are many, principles are few. Methods always change, principles never do” Author – Unknown
Warm ups have come a long way since I started out. Back then running for five minutes on a treadmill used to be the order of the day. Now we know better.
The methods we use to warm up will likely continue to evolve over time. But the principle of warming up before each training session is key to preparing clients both physically and mentally for their workout.
It helps their body transition from a sendentary state into one that’s ready to perform. We’re aiming to prepare the clients’ nervous system AND musculoskeletal system for the demands that are about to come. And ultimately improving how well they’re going to move during the workout.
the warm up needs to be progressive in nature – starting with slower, controlled movements and transitioning into more dynamic moves that start to closely mimic what the moves in the workout look like.
1. Soft Tissue Work (Foam Roller / Massage Ball)
The first step in the warm up is designed to help clients move better.
Your clients’ need a certain amount of flexibility and a good range of movement to perform their exercises with good posture. So we want to remove any muscular restrictions that could be pulling a clients’ body into a bad position.
For example: Let’s say John D has tight hamstrings. He’s really going to struggle to get into the deadlift position without loosing the curve in his lower back.
John’s fighting against tight muscles. And no amount of coaching will get him in the right position. Soft tissue work will help undo some of the knots in his hamstrings and surrounding soft tissues.
We can free up Johns’ hamstrings by using a foam roller for a quick ‘massage’.
By loosening the tight, restricted areas of Johns’ body he’s much more able to get into the right posture for the deadlift, because he’s not fighting against tight hamstrings that were limiting how far he can move.
Note: you might decide to stretch tight muscles right after foam rolling to get even more length.
From a performance standpoint, John never got the most out his hamstrings when they were all knotted and holding unnecessary tension. We want them to be able to contract and relax fully in a smooth effective manor.
And foam rolling will go a long way to iron out the knots, free up the adhesions between muscle fibres, and loosen restrictions in the fascia so John is free(er) to move without having to fight against muscular restrictions in his own body.
2. Joint Mobility
Where flexibility relates to the length of a muscle, mobility refers to the amount of movement available at a joint.
We need both adequate flexibility and mobilty to develop good movement patterns and help clients train effectively and stay pain free.
There are three key areas we want mobility:
Working joint mobilizations into your warm ups that hit these three areas will go a long way to adressing the decreasing mobility most people present when they’re coming in from a sedentary lifestyle to try and get fit.
As always, it comes back to getting clients moving better first, before trying to get them to move more, or with more load.
3. Muscle Activation
This part of the warm up is geared towards ‘switching on’ certain muscles that’re typically underactive due to lack of use.
Think of muscle activation as cranking up the dimmer switch to wake certain muscles up. We want to strengthen the signal from the brain to these muscles to get them contributing more to every exercise we do.
For example: John D’s glutes don’t work the way they should. He spends 90% of his time sat on his backside. So his body is starting to lose the ability to recruit his glutes effectively.
Because John’s sat down all the time his body doesn’t see being able to effectively contract his glutes as being a high priority.
And as always, the body works on a use it or lose it basis. So beacuse John isn’t using his glutes – he’s losing them.
We can jump start John’s glutes at the begining of the workout (along with any other muscles that have become underactive due to poor posture and under use) with some simple muscle activation exercises.
The ‘lazy’ muscles we want to wake up at the start of a workout include:
4) Dynamic Warm Up
The final piece of the warm up is to get the blood pumping and take the joints and muscles through a fuller range of movement.
Dynamic stretches, heel kicks, high knees and other more dynamic movements go here (depending on your clients’ ability) to literally warm all the muscles and joints up in preparation for the main part of the workout.