Warmup Specificity: Why It Matters
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; quality repetition of almost any activity will yield success down the road. Yes? Okay, glad we can agree on that. Moving along…
A warmup is designed to activate and prime the necessary movers to complete the given task at hand for that workout. I repeat, for THAT workout. Not preparation for any workout, but for that specific workout. A warmup must also reflect components of the movements to mentally prepare the individual. Rather, the warmup SHOULD be doing these things. However, more often than not these key components are overlooked.
Let’s use the sport of weightlifting as an example. Out of any strength sport (and yes I will include CrossFit here), weightlifting is absolutely the most specific in nature. Weightlifting has two competition lifts, that’s it. If you’ve been around long enough to watch some really excellent weightlifters train, you will notice that their warmup begins with an unloaded barbell, and a long sequence of articulately developed movements follows suit. This individual will follow nearly the same pattern day in and day out, with slight variance due to the primary movement. There is a reason for this. The complexity of weightlifting on a neurological level requires some serious brain activity to move as fast and efficiently as possible. They will not be seen running sleds or doing intervals on the AirDyne. It’s a waste of energy, and it’s mindless. They haven’t done anything except get out of breath and raise their body temperature. Is this a good use of time? I would hope the answer is no.
Bad Warmup for Squats:
-Doing lunges around the gym while trying to knock AbMats out of other people’s hands (yes I have seen video of this).
Good Warmup for Squats:
-2×15 face pulls
-1×10 back extensions
-2×15 hip circle lateral walks
-1×20 alternating reverse lunges
-1-2×8 BW squats
-1-2×8 squats with barbell or goblet squat
Of course, there is going to be the argument that in a group setting of non-competitive individuals who are just looking to improve their basic level of fitness, there needs to be an element of fun. I agree with this, but the fun part occurs when the individual has a successful day in the gym and leaves injury free with a better comprehension of their mechanics. The feeling of achievement will be greater than a couple of laughs early in the day. Sucking isn’t fun, and sucking doesn’t make people smile like a PR does.
If you are a coach, it is your absolute duty to provide the best possible information through whatever systems necessary to ensure the success of your athletes. Coming up with a “fun” warmup 5 minutes before the session begins doesn’t cut it. Picking warmups simply because they’re challenging or look flashy to your clients doesn’t cut it either. Take 5-10 minutes (shouldn’t take longer) the night before class and look at what the programming is. Develop a system that will get the individual from A to B as efficiently as possible while using the least amount of energy expenditure to do that. If you are not a coach, the same rules apply. If your coach consistently provides bad warmups, develop your own warmup to do before class and while you’re at it, find a new coach.
Lastly, the element of repetition comes in to play. Once you have developed a warmup sequence through trial and error that suits the needs of your training, stick with it! While the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is highly overused, it’s also entirely true. Success requires consistency. Consistency requires repetition. Repetition requires discipline. Want to be the best? Warm up like it.