It was requested quite a while ago that I should write about a Warm up Routine to prevent injuries.
As you know, I have dealt with injuries myself for the past 5 years and I developed my own Warm up and little adjustments to my workouts to decrease the risk of injury.
So far, I have been pain-free since November, when I teared a ligament of my hip …
I hope you find the following Tips useful!
1. Foam Rolling
Ligaments should not be stretched at any time because they stabilize the joints. This is why you need to be careful when doing stretches. If you cannot feel the stretch in the muscle, don’t do it.
Instead, foam rolling helps to address tight spots in your muscles, also called “trigger points”. Rolling these points will hurt but afterwards you will feel that your muscle soreness decreases and blood flow increases.
As with every exercise, proper form is crucial with foam rolling.
- Keep your Core tight at all times.
In fact, you will find that Foam rolling turns out to become a little Abs workout. While rolling, you are basically in a Plank position the whole time, either a front plank, side plank or reverse plank. So make sure to contract your muscles just as you would do when planking. overextending the lower back while foam rolling and an anterior pelvic tilt can lead to back pain and decrease stabilization of the pelvis.
- Contract your Latissimus dorsi.
It is tempting to let the shoulders sag. However, foam rolling becomes much more effective when you tense all muscles in your body. Make sure to push your shoulder blades down, as you would in a plank and keep your body in a straight line. Watch yourself in the mirror and make sure your form is correct.
- Don’t roll too fast
As a matter of fact, when you find a tight spot, you should pause there, until the pain subsides. Do not roll your body on the foam roller too fast, as that will not have any effect. Always focus on what you are doing and try to think of foam rolling as a massage.
- Don’t roll your lower back
When I first started foam rolling, I rolled my entire body. The lower back’s muscles are very thin and when you are rolling them, the pressure actually tightens them even more. My lower back was in pain for days and I needed to apply heat to loosen up the muscles. You can safely roll your upper back, legs, arm pits, chest muscles but leave out your lower back.
- Don’t roll directly on joints
Whenever you feel a bony structure, stop there and don’t roll on the joint. My foam rolling is one of the hardest you can find and rolling my joints with it would do more harm than good. Roll around your joints to loosen up the muscles. This is very important, especially for the hip and knee-joint.
Here you can find a great video on Foam rolling.
You do not need to Foam roll before every workout. I did that in the first few months after my injury but if you are healthy, foam rolling once a day is enough. You can either roll in the morning, before or after your workout or in the evening.
2. Light Stretches
I never do static stretches before my workout. However, you can implement dynamic moves to increase blood flow and stretch any muscle that is still tight, even after foam rolling.
- Stretching the Adductor Muscles
Especially if you have uneven hips or hip dysplasia, or if you just sit for a long period of time, stretching the Inner Thighs / Adductor muscles is very important before you workout. Make sure to just lightly stretch and rock back and forth between the left and right side.
- Stretching the Hip Flexors
This stretch needs to be done in perfect form. If not, you will end up stretching your ligaments instead of the muscle. The trick here is to tilt your pelvis posteriorly. Squeeze both your glutes as hard as you can and you will feel a light stretch at the front of your hip. Again, don’t hold this position for too long and change sides frequently.
- Stretching the Chest muscles
I only stretch my pectoralis major (chest muscle) before Upper Body workouts. The position of your arm changes the stretch slightly. If you turn your arm so that your palm is facing up, you will feel the stretch more in your chest. If you turn your palm down to the ground, you will feel it more in your biceps. Again, do not hold this position for too long, just lightly stretch the muscles. Especially as many people sit a lot with their shoulder slouched forward, the chest muscles are often very tight. This makes it hard to properly activate the upper back muscles.
- Open up the Hips
After doing these stretches, I do deep Squats and Good Morning, to further open up my hips and increase blood flow. If you cannot go that deep in the Squat, you can hold onto something, a chair or your table. It is okay if your lower back rounds a bit, as this is meant as a stretch, not a strengthening exercise. I do this every morning too and sometimes I shift my weight more to right and then the left.
I do not recommend this exercise for anyone who has back pain or a disk prolapse though. However, if you have uneven hips like me, you will notice that your pelvis is in alignment after this exercise.
While doing the Good Morning, try to contract your Glutes and Hamstrings and keep your Core tight the whole time.
3. Cardio Warm up
I typically do one of Fitnessblender’s Warm ups here but these are my favorite Cardio Warm up Exercises:
- Knee Raises
With this exercise it is important to keep the Core tight and actually implement a slight Crunch. The Glute on the leg that is on the ground should be contracted to stabilize the Pelvis. You can also use your arms and warm up your latissimus dorsi and shoulder muscles with this exercise
- Toe Touches
This is great to warm up the Glutes, Hamstring and your torso (the muscles in your back that help you to rotate). Try to keep your back flat, a slight rounding when you touch your foot is alright.
These are traditional Bodyweight Squats. Try to use excellent form here, especially if you are planning on using weight in your workout.
Again these are done Bodyweight. Try to contract the Glutes on both sides and keep your Core right.
- Standing Leg Swing
This is one my favorite Exercises to warm up the hip-joint. Actually, the name of this exercise is misleading: It should not be a “swing”, more a raise when you lift your leg to the front or back. Contract your glutes and keep your core tight.
This exercise increases your heart rate and if you keep your core tight and contract your glutes, you can feel a slight stretch in your hip flexors and quadriceps (front of the thighs).
This is one of my favorite exercises to increase the heart rate and Warm up the upper back. Make sure to tighten your arms and contract your rear deltoid muscles to bring your arms back. Also, keep your core tight and don’t forget to breathe.
4. Pilates Glutes Warm up
I have addressed this a few times in my posts. It is crucial for proper activation of the glutes and hamstrings to do some light isolation exercises before lifting heavy weights. Even on Upper Body training days, I do a short 10 Minute Glutes Warm up. Especially during Bent-over Rows or Shoulder Presses it is important to stabilize the pelvis to protect the lower back. If you don’t have that much time, do 5 Minutes instead of 10.
Here you can find my personal Glute Activation Routine.
I would like to add some tips to prevent injuries during the workout as well:
- Start with light weight:
I like to implement pyramids in my workouts. This means I start with a light weight and higher repetitions and as I increase the weight, I decrease my repetitions. This way, your muscles get warm and the risk of injury is reduced.
- Don’t do an exercise that doesn’t feel right:
Even if it says on your plan that you should do heavy squats, if you don’t feel safe and stable, do not lift heavy or don’t do the exercise. Especially if you have uneven hips like me, don’t do Squats if you cannot feel contract both sides of your body equally. Instead, do single-legged Exercises, like Bulgarian Split Squats or Lunges. They work the same muscle group but focus on one limb at a time.
- Don’t always train to muscle failure:
Increasing metabolic stress and time under tension are scientifically proven methods for Hypertrophy (growth of muscle). However, especially if you have a history with injuries, going to muscle failure each workout will stall your progress and increase the risk of injury. Always lift as heavy or do as many repetitions as you can with proper form and activation of the right muscles.
- No HIIT after strength training:
If you are healthy and an advanced trainee, you can do a short HIIT routine after strength training to increase the fat burning process. However, if you have a history with injuries, have muscle imbalances and are new to training, don’t do HIIT after lifting weights. HIIT has a high impact on your joints and if your muscles are fatigued after heavy lifting, the chance of injury is very high. Instead, do some moderate intensity cardio, like bodyweight moves, to burn more fat but prevent injury.
I hope you find these Tips useful! I will also write an article on how to detect muscle imbalances and how to decrease them.
How about you? Any additional tricks to warm up your body and prevent injuries?
As always, if you liked this article, comment and share!
Your positive feedback motivates me to keep writing 🙂
Btw. my first day of internship is done! I was very nervous but everyone is really nice. I will try to learn as much as I can!
Wish you all a wonderful week!