In part 1 of this article, we explained the concepts of ‘passive’ and ‘active’ warm ups, foam rolling and self myofascial release. We also covered stretches and mobility drills to help clean up your movement patterns, mimimise risk of injury and optimise performance. Click here to read part 1 of this article.
In this part, we’re going to cover how to ‘activate’ the commonly inhibited glute muscles, as well as active and dynamic warm up methods. These warm up methods can help you make the most out of your personal training sessions at The Fit Stop, or you can use them before your own workouts or even as an ‘active recovery’ session on your non-training days.
So, continuing on from part 1, after foam rolling, stretching tight muscles and running through some mobility drills, its time to activate the glutes!
Many people have non-existent, inhibited glutes or very weak ones at best. Due to their natural strength and the leverage advantage they have over your legs, the glutes should always be the primary muscles that drive lower body movement. Not only does this include more ballistic activities like running and jumping, but also walking.
Two main problems surrounding glute function are:
a) Glutes are inhibited
b) Glutes are overshadowed.
When glutes are inhibited, they are permanently in shutdown mode and not firing. This could be because they don’t contract in your daily life (e.g., walking, standing, standing up from the couch). In contrast, overshadowed glutes DO fire correctly, but are weaker than other lower body muscles (e.g., quads and hamstrings), thus the body will use other muscles to do what the glutes SHOULD be doing, resulting in inefficient performance and often some type of pain or injury over the long haul.
Movement patterns like a squat, lunge, deadlifts, jumping and sprinting involves a large group of muscles, yet the majority of the work will always be done by the strongest muscles which, for most people tends to be the quads (which will therefore put a lot of pressure onto the knees).
More specifically, your glute medius and other deeper hip stabilizers will often become weak or inhibited, leading to poor hip stability and compromised function.
Thus, we want active glutes because this leads to increased functionality, increased performance and reduced risk of injury.
The good news is that we can often switch them on quite easily (sometimes it might take some time and practice too!). To successfully get the glutes firing, we have to activate them in a low load/low stress environment, and within isolation exercises where the inappropriate helper muscles (groin, hip flexors, hamstrings, back etc) can’t jump in and take over.
The progression is quiet simple and if you can find a time to do them once a day in front of the TV and as part of your warm-up, you’ll feel the benefits pretty quickly. You want to first learn how to switch on your glutes, once this is achieved you will progress to where the glute is activated AND moving the leg through air. From there, you can then integrate the working muscle into a loaded environment i.e., squats.
NOTE – Take a look at The Fit Stop App for videos demonstrating these exercises. Just search for ‘The Fit Stop’ in your app store
To activate the glute medius and deeper hip rotators / stabilizers:
Side Lying Clams
Lying on your side, lift your top leg up (as shown above), in doing so the aim is to activate your glute medius on the side of your hip. You can start with small movements and increase the range of motion as strength and control improves. A mini band around the ankles for extra resistance is also a common progression. Do anywhere from 10-30 reps in a set.
Basically a standing version of the first movement, this time your standing on two legs and taking side steps with the band giving the resistance.
To activate your bigger glute maximus:
1. Prone Glute Squeeze
First, try and just get both sides of your glutes firing. NOTE: one side at a time, not simultaneously. This might take up to 2 weeks depending on the state of your glutes. Once this is achieved, actively squeeze one side and slowly raise your leg off the floor while glute is still one. E.g., squeeze right glute, and then lift right leg off the floor. 10 Squeezes on each side.
Begin from a kneeling stance and maintain a neutral spine extend one arm up and one leg back making sure to squeeze the glute of the moving leg. Try doing 2 sets of 10 reps on both sides.
Smoothly drive your hips up until they are fully extended as pictured. What you should see is a straight line from knee to hip and shoulder. Once the double leg glute bridge is no longer challenging, move to the single leg version. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.
Active general warm up
The active general warm up is quiet straight forward. Do 10-15 minutes in a modality of your choice e.g., running or cycling at a moderate intensity. As mentioned previously, the aim of the general warm up is to increase the muscle and body temperature. There is an abundance of research stating that raises in muscle temperature increases the ability of the muscle to produce energy during exercise. This is one of the main reasons for improvements in performance post warm up. In contrast, neglecting active general warm up can lead to injuries, resulting from cold muscles that are rigid, stiff and resilient to sudden increases in tension caused by rapid movements.
A dynamic warmup is a series of movements designed to increase body temperature, activate the nervous system, increase range of motion, and correct limitations. Studies reveal dynamic stretching before a workout will help you lift heavier as compared to doing static and/or no stretching!! To gain adequate range of motion at your joints and to fire up key muscles that you’re going to use within your workout, you need to do specific drills or practice unloaded movements of that which you will be doing during your session.
For example, a lunge with a twist is an exercise that engages all of your lower legs muscles and core. This translates into weighted lunges in the gym or within a sport like soccer as you lunge for the ball
DWU’s practicing the exact movement you’ll be performing during your session(i.e. Bodyweigh squats, light deadlifts, light Bench press) is also helpful for exciting the nervous system (which tells your muscles what to do) improving bodily awareness and helps to ingrain good movement patterns & technique.
You might often notice you feel a bit off during the first couple of sets during your weights session however, after a couple of unloaded or light warm up sets you move more freely, gain better coordination, balance and strength, which helps you lift heavier weights.
Therefore, in a nutshell, if done correctly, DWU will increase your performance levels when you train (e.g., lift heavier and better quality movement)
So there we have it, we now know that an efficient & effective warm up should include:
– Foam rolling
– Stretching tight muscles / mobility drills
– Activating inhibited muscles
– Active general warm up
– Dynamic warm-up
If you understand the methods, appreciate the benefits, and train with purpose, a good warm up like this after a long day of sitting at a desk or driving a car will help you minimise risk of injury, improve movement quality,optimise your performance and greatly improve your training session.
by Katrina Laczoffy
Fit Stop Personal Trainer St Kilda
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