Workouts put a lot of stress on your system which is why it’s important to know how to prepare your body to deal with what’s to come. While the whole idea of working out is to wear your body down so that it rebuilds itself stronger, jumping straight into your workout is too much of a shock for the body. A little bit of planning and prepping can go a long way in giving you the results you want and avoiding injury. Here are 4 steps you should never skip before exercising.
1. Eat 60-90 Minutes Before Training
It’s common for people to come to the gym with an empty stomach. There is a general understanding that working out on an empty stomach burns more fat. This is not really true. Even if you workout first thing in the morning, doing so without fueling is a bad idea. You’re probably fasting for the last 10-12 hours. Your body is starved and unlikely to perform its best.
Having some form of nutrition before your workout will give you much-needed energy and stamina. If also drives metabolism by contributing to protein synthesis. If your aim is to boost strength, increase lean mass and burn fat, aim for a pre-workout meal of lean protein and slow-acting carbs such as brown rice, oatmeal or sweet potatoes. For early morning workout, mix a scoop of whey protein with a glass of watered down orange juice to break your fast.
2. Use A Foam Roller For 10-15 Minutes
Have you thought about why so many pro athletes have deep tissue specialists work on them before games and practices? This treatment breaks up knots in tissue, improves muscle quality, and increases mobility. You may not have the luxury of hiring massagers but foam rollers can act as the poor man’s massage substitute. Just 10 minutes on a foam roller can make you feel more limber and be able to perform exercises more effectively.
Start from the bottom and working your way up. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out and the foam roller under one of your calves. Using medium pressure guide your body over the foam roller so it works it’s way over your calf muscles 6 to 8 times. Then switch over to the other calf. When rolling, hold the foam roller on areas that are tenser. The same technique can be used for hamstrings, glutes, middle and upper back, lats, quads, and chest. But remember not to foam roll over joints (like the back of your knees) or your lumbar spine (lower back). It can increase the risk of injury.
3. Do Dynamic Mobility Work For 5-10 Minutes
People have been doing static stretching before working out for decades. There is nothing wrong with it but why waste time when you can stretch far more effectively. Dynamic movements involve full body movements where the stretch is held for only one to two seconds in each position. Recent research has shown that those who engaged in dynamic warm-ups produce greater long-term gains in mobility and flexibility along with strength than those who do static stretching or skip the warm-up altogether.
Including 5-10 minutes of dynamic mobility work will elevate your heart rate and prime your muscles for the workout ahead. You can either go for a full-body dynamic mobility routine which can be done before every session or only do movements that work on the muscles that you will train that day.
4. Do A Workout-Specific Warm-Up
When you do warm-up sets at 40 to 70 percent of your one-rep max for each of the major lifts, you reduce your chance of injury, prime the nervous system and improve performance during your actual workout sets.
How to go about it: If your two big lifts of the day are the front squat and the bench press, you should perform two to three warm-up sets for each movement in the same range of repetitions that you are going to use during the workout. For a 6-reps front squat with 185 pounds, begin with a set of 8 at 95 pounds, then a set of 6 at 135 and finally a set of 4 at 160. This will prime your body for your work sets.