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Why Some Warmups Aren’t Useful

As performance physical therapists in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we work within a very knowledgeable and active community.  Our clients and patients understand the importance of warming up.

Warming up is commonly touted as essential for anyone wishing to avoid injury during exercise, performance training, or running.

We agree with this statement; however, warmup routines are often implemented in a non-productive way.

There is a time and place for everything, however this does not mean that you need to stretch, roll around on the ground, and perform “activation” drills prior to being ready for exercise.

In addition to increasing total body temperature, a warmup routine should prepare the body for the specific workout that is going to take place. For this reason, we call warming up “movement preparation.” The body is being prepared to move!

Movement preparation should include drills that train the skills necessary for the day’s workout. Many times, these drills will look similar to the exercises within that day’s work out.

If you are getting ready to run, perform activities that practice things necessary to run effectively. If you are going to lift weights, practice movements similar to the lifts you are going to perform (ie. If you are going to squat, then squat in your warmup!).

This advise applies regardless of whether you are healthy, injured, in performance physical therapy, or training for performance.

Below are 2 drills that we often use during movement preparation prior to running. Each drill practices single leg balance, the ability to shock absorb on one leg, and trunk rotation. These are all attributes necessary for running.

Single leg knee to chest
Forward lunge with cross connect

Furthermore, if you have been sitting at a desk for the majority of the day, you may need a more comprehensive warmup. On the other hand, if you have an active job requiring you to move in a variety of different ways then your warmup may not need to be as comprehensive.

Movement preparation is necessary, however it is essential to be purposeful, rather than mindlessly performing the same thing before every workout.