Warm-Up and Why?

The warm-up; for some strange reason this activity is loathed by so many people. Very often I get the told "Oh I'm already warmed up; I walked here" or "I ran up the stairs to get here so we can probably skip warm-up". Well, I've got news for you, the answer is no. For no reason on any day will we be skipping warm-up and here's why:

1. Injury Prevention- The gradual rise in heart rate, rather than immediate, exerts less stress on the heart. This elevation in heart rate will increase blood flow which will in turn prepare the joints and muscles for exertion as well as get oxygen to the muscles faster. More oxygen to the muscles means that they will be able to contract faster and more efficiently. 

2. Physical Assessment- I use my dynamic warm-up with my clients as a way to assess and recognize any issues that may be arising or any asymmetry that is going on. I have had several occasions where I see a client moving differently from normal and it happens to be an issue that they haven't mentioned or they have overlooked. It is better to catch potential problems during this stage rather than during the workout where things can be easily exasperated. 

3. Mental Preparedness- This is a point that it often overlooked but very important. Having a proper warm-up gets your head in the right space to focus on what is to come and properly prepare. More often than not, a skipped warm-up contributes to a lack lustre workout.  

So whether it is one the bike, treadmill, or rower, the warm up is not to be skipped. It is just as crucial as the body of the workout and should be treated as such. Warm up! Your body will thank you for it!!

Swing It!

The wonderful kettlebell! An often neglected piece of equipment, it is a very useful tool for warming up, strength and conditioning work, as well as rehabilitation exercises. It is portable, easy to use and very effective for many reasons.

There are two standard types of swing; the Russian swing and the American swing. The main difference between the two is the end height of the swing (Russian stops at shoulder height, American stops overhead). If you are a beginner, it is best to learn the Russian swing first at a light and manageable weight before you move on to the American swing. This is the natural progression and is the safe way to go.  Here's a basic how-to on the mechanisms of the kettlebell swing.

  1.  Start with your feet shoulder width apart and slightly flexed knees. Hold the kettle bell in both hands with your palms facing towards you. Contract your spine and abdominals and keep your shoulders back while loading on your heels.
  2. By using a hip-hinge movement (similar to a groin thrust) generate enough power to get the bell moving without using your arms and shoulders to lift it. As the power generated from your hips increases, so will the height of the kettlebell.
  3. As the bell rises, use your arms to guide it up to shoulder height without pulling it. Maintain straight arms, but not locked, throughout the movement. At the end of the upswing, the bell should be at shoulder height with your hips open and legs straight.
  4. As the bell drops into the downswing, prepare your body for it by absorbing the force with your hips, slightly bending your knees and rocking back onto your heels.  Maintain a strong back so that the bell does not drag you down with it.
  5. As the bell reaches the end of the downswing and rests at knee level, prepare to pump through the hips in order to initiate the next upswing. 

After you have gotten comfortable with the swing, use it during your dynamic warm-up in order to open the hips and prep the body for movement. Keep the weight low and do around ten repetitions. If you want to use it as a cardio interval between your exercise sets, keep the the reps around 10-15 but increase the weight to a more taxing amount. 

So if you want to add something new to your workout or warm-up, a kettle bell is a great addition to consider. Grab a bell and get swinging! Your body will thank you for it!