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Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, an athlete, or someone embarking on a new exercise journey, the significance of movement preparation cannot be overstated. This essential phase, often overlooked, holds the key to optimizing your workouts, preventing injuries, and maximizing performance gains. In this article, we’ll cover the importance of movement preparation, uncovering its benefits, the techniques, and why it should be an integral art of your fitness routine.
What is Movement Preparation?
Movement preparation, often referred to as a dynamic warm-up, is a deliberate sequence of exercises that target various muscle groups and joints. Unlike traditional static stretching, movement preparation involves active movements that engage the muscles and gradually increase the heart rate, preparing the body for the upcoming workout.
Dynamic vs. Static
We all remember the early days of PE class, holding a hamstring stretch for 10 seconds, and switching to the other side. This process is known as static stretching and is best suited for activities that involve controlled and sustained efforts such as yoga or exercises focused on muscle isolation.
When it comes to performance, we strongly encourage adding a dynamic warm-up to better prepare for your body for activity. Dynamic warm-ups increase your heart rate, your core temperature and sends fresh, oxygenated blood to the areas that need it most.
The Benefits of Movement Preparation
- Injury Prevention: Dynamic movements before your workout helps increase blood flow, warm up the muscles, and enhance joint mobility, reducing the risk of strains and injuries during your workout. We recommend moving your body in ways that mimic the exercise you are about to perform, but at a reduced or minimal load. This strategy gives your muscles, joints and ligaments time to “wake-up” before they are under the stress of your workout.
- Enhanced Performance: Preparing for exercise primes your nervous system, allowing for improved coordination, balance, and strength during exercise. Your ability to recruit muscles and respond to changes in direction or terrain becomes heightened as your body has essentially practiced this motion during your warm-up.
- Range of Motion: Dynamic stretching and movements help improve your range of motion which can lead to better exercise form and increased functional flexibility. Consider your muscles, joints and ligaments, as a rubber band. If you stretch the band to its limit on the first attempt, it’s likely the band will snap. But, if you gradually increase the stretch length over time, it’s less likely to break under tension.
- Mental Focus: Engaging in a movement preparation routine helps shift your focus to your workout, mentally preparing you for the challenges ahead. When you warm up with movements that your exercise requires, it provides a “muscle-memory” effect when its time to perform the movement patterns.
Key Components of Movement Preparation
# 1. Cardiovascular Warm-up:
To activate your body’s cardiovascular system you will need to gradually increase your heart rate. Do this by starting with a light activity such as walking, jogging, or cycling. Engage specific muscles that are important for your workout. For instance, if you’re doing a leg workout, include bodyweight squats or glute bridges to activate those muscle groups.
# 2. Dynamic Stretching:
Dynamic Stretching Examples:
Sport Specific Dynamic Warm-Up: Tennis
Customizing for Your Workout
1. Crone. C Reciprocal inhibition in man. Dan Med Bull. 1993 Nov;40(5);571-81. PMID: 8299401.
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