A light cardio warmup can improve your weight training experience.
For a long time, I’ve believed that best way to get loose for swings in the cage is to take those same swings at a lower level of intensity and build up to your desired effort level. I’ve implemented this theory into my weight training and, specifically, my squats. Rather than going through a progressive active stretch, for example, I’ve opted for squats with incrementally heavier weights as I reach my desired working weight.
At 39 years old, I run into occasional stiffness that I didn’t contend with in my early lifting days. When my body is taking longer than usual to reach its most flexible state, I seek an alternative to my progressive buildup.
Today, I arrived at the gym and hopped on the elliptical machine (ouch, can’t believe I just wrote that). At a moderate intensity, I banged out 5 minutes, bouncing around like the rest of the knuckleheads at the big box fitness chains across the country. When I stepped beneath the bar, my body felt more primed for action than usual. I was certainly looser, but not necessarily stronger. Next time, I’ll up the time on the machine to 15 minutes and see how it impacts my power output. From breakingmuscle.com:
For this study, the researchers described the difference between general warm ups, like a jog, and specific warm ups. The specific warm up would be doing a lighter version of or similar exercise to the one you’re training that day. In this study, researchers used an ergometer (basically, an exercise bike) to warm up for a leg press. So essentially they were doing a specific and general warm up simultaneously.
Researchers combined two different length warm ups with two different intensities, resulting in four different warm ups. A fifth group did no warm up. Neither of the shorter length warm ups, which were 5 minutes long, had any difference compared to the group that didn’t warm up at all. So while a 5-minute warm up might be good, it isn’t going to boost your performance.
The longer warm ups of 15 minutes were the only ones that altered performance. With the higher intensity, which was enough to yield an average heart rate of almost 150 bpm, strength was reduced. With the lower intensity producing a heart rate of about 115 bpm, limit strength increased.
My mission, particularly in this workout, wasn’t strength but a noticeably more flexible body for a deeper squat with full range of motion. That was unequivocally accomplished. This has much to do with the elasticity of our muscles as they heat up.
My JV baseball coach, Mr. Gunny, had comically short shorts, a whistle around his neck and a logical thought which he shared with us 9th graders. “There has never been a study that proves static stretching prevents injuries. But think of your muscles like rubber bands. If they are warmer, they are likely to expand and contract more efficiently before they snap. A cold rubber band will do just the opposite.” Then he told us to take a lap in our spikes on blacktop…in the San Fernando Valley…in June. We were warm, for sure. From fitstar.com:
When you warm up, you are literally warming up the temperature of both your body and your muscles. Your heart rate and circulation begin to gradually increase throughout the body. Increased blood flow means more blood going to the muscles, along with more oxygen available to the working muscles, and that also means better performance. Your ligaments and tendons become more flexible, reducing the chance of tears.
Like you, I want to enjoy my workouts. While we’re constantly mining for efficiency, the overall enjoyment of our experience training has a tangible effect on our wellbeing. It makes sense that we would take an extra 15 minutes prior to ease into it. Strength and health equals confidence.