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Warming Up: Boosting Range of Motion for Muscle Growth, Strength and Injury Prevention
- Updated: February 9, 2017
When looking at your training program, it’s easy to forget about the warm-up as an important part of reaching your goals.
But, whether you’re looking to improve your athletic performance, prevent injury or just put on more muscle, the warm-up is important.
Increasing flexibility, muscle activation and work capacity are just some of the benefits of a good warm up. This allows you to move through a larger range of motion with each exercise, which allows for greater muscle growth and reduce injury risk.
It also allows you to perform exercises at a higher intensity and perform more work, which helps endurance and muscle growth further.
A good warm up can also reduce your risk of injury, which can halt progress and stop you from competing at important events.
All of the above benefits show just how important developing and maintaining a good warm-up routine is in improving performance.
So, when planning your next training program, taking some time to prepare a good warm-up routine to improve your movement quality can make a big difference to your results.
Eight Essential Pre-Workout Exercises
As mentioned above, including warm-up drills into your program can significantly improve your training progress and prevent potential problems.
However, many athletes may worry that introducing these drills into their routine could disrupt their training and take time away from other exercises.
Fortunately, there are a host of exercises that can be quickly and easily included in a workout without taking up too much time or focus.
Below are eight such exercises that can be done as part of your warm-up or before your routine to help improve range of motion and movement quality.
These exercises are, and should always be, specific to your training session and goals of your workout.
1. Hamstring Foam Rolling
Many dismiss flexibility work because of recent research showing static stretching having a negative effect on strength and power.
But, these negative effects are not present when foam rolling is used to boost range of motion. In fact, foam rolling can also help improve blood flow to the muscles and help improve recovery after a tough session.
The hamstrings can be a common site for injury, especially in athletes like soccer players or MMA fighters. This gives hamstring foam rolling an important place in warm-ups for these athletes.
Foam rolling the hamstring can be done easily at the beginning of a workout by a foam roller to help prevent problems with the muscle and assist in warming up the lower body. Rolling the back of the thighs for 30-60 seconds before a leg workout is best for ideal results.
2. Groin Foam Rolling
The groin is another area of trouble for fighters, soccer players and even NFL players. It is also a difficult area to stretch and so is an ideal muscle to use foam rolling on.
This will allow you to boost range of motion in an awkwardly positioned muscle that is important in movements like squatting, lunging and running without affecting its strength.
Rolling inside the thigh once with a foam roller for 30 seconds each leg should be sufficient to achieve maximum benefit.
3. Deficit Push Ups
Another point that may come as a surprise is that you can also use common exercises to increase your flexibility and activation of the chest and shoulder muscles.
Research has shown that performing resistance exercise can be used to boost range of motion and increase muscle control and activation.
This allows a time-efficient means to increase both strength and flexibility and allows you to include more flexibility work in your program with only minor changes in exercises.
Deficit push-ups allow for a greater range of movement to be used and enables the shoulder blades to move freely, unlike in a bench press where they are pinned down.
This exercise is best when used before an upper body workout and after shoulder foam rolling is performed to help maximize flexibility in the shoulders and chest and boost performance in your workout.
Performing a single set of 10 to 15 repetitions as your strength allows, should deliver improved range of motion and workout performance.
4. Lying Cobras
This exercise allows you to strengthen the back, which can be a neglected yet important muscle group, while also increasing flexibility in the shoulders and chest. It is known as a great injury prevention exercise and for improving posture, which also reduces injury risk.
With the shoulders also being a common site for injury, this makes cobras an ideal exercise for anyone involved in heavy pushing, throwing or just looking to improve their posture.
Performing 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions by raising the arms behind the head and moving them down toward the hips, should be aimed for, preferably before an upper body workout, to attain maximum benefit from this exercise.
5. Face Pulls
This is another exercise that works to strengthen the back. But, this movement focuses more on the rotator cuff, which can be a common and serious injury site.
So, adding a set of face pulls into a warm up routine, preferably after completing the lying cobras exercise, can help fully develop the back, which is essential in pulling and grappling movements, and prevent debilitating injuries.
If performing lying cobras, a single set of 10 face pulls should suffice for optimum benefits, with 3 sets being required if done alone.
6. Nordic Hamstring Curls
This exercise pairs well with hamstring foam rolling to help both strengthen and increase the flexibility of the hamstrings. It is also one of the best exercises for preventing injury to these muscles.
The Nordic Hamstring Curls place a high amount of eccentric stress on the hamstrings. This means it places strain on the muscle group while its lengthening.
Eccentric exercises can help develop strength more than conventional movements and helps activate the muscles before a workout.
This exercise is performed by starting in a kneeling position with a partner or device securing your ankles in place. Then you slowly lower the torso to the ground before pushing yourself back up to the starting position.
Performing 3 sets of 10 repetitions should be enough for beginners to gain benefit from the move. Then, you can increase the repetitions over time.
7. Lateral Squats
Similar to the hamstrings, this eccentric exercise pairs well with the groin foam rolling to help boost flexibility, strength, muscle activity and blood flow to the adductor muscle group.
Standing in a wide stance squat position, this move is done by leaning to the side on one leg and squatting down while the other leg remains outstretched to the side.
This move should be done for a single set of 10 to 15 repetitions each leg. If you’re a more advanced trainee, then you can increase the sets to 3 for further benefit.
8. Glute Bridges
Targeting the glutes in the warm-up can help increase performance in movements using the hips later in the workout.
This is done by increasing the activation of the muscles while also improving blood flow to the area.
This exercise is performed by lying on the back and raising the hips until the knees are in line with the shoulders.
Doing 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of glute bridges should help provide the increased muscle control and blood flow need for enhanced performance.
Overall, the war-up offers a way to prepare your body for the upcoming training session and can be used to maximize performance as well as prevent nasty injuries down the road.
Including the above exercises into your program should take no more than 15 minutes in total, making it a time-efficient means of improving your results and boosting your workout performance to help get you closer to your fitness goals.
It should also be noted that some supplements can be used to boost work capacity and improve recovery after exercise.
For example, you can buy Cardarine or related SARM supplements to boost endurance and recovery. This can help add to your workout further and promote more progress.