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Do you want to squat heavier? Move better? Stay injury-free? While I love to dig into a static hip opener, nothing gets me ready for a workout like a low-load dynamic warm-up. So many of my clients and athlete peers say, “I need to stretch more.” But do you really?
Fact: Stretching is very important. However, when it comes to load and intensity — two important exercise elements — stretching is not necessarily the best means to your end goal.
Research shows that static stretching should be left for the end of your workout. On the flip side, dynamic flexibility and low-load activity is a better tool to prime your body and nervous system. The movements should be specific to the exercises that you plan for your workout.
If you’re warming up to a moderately heavy weight for five sets of three, using the back squat as an example, you want to have your glutes and hips warm to squat efficiently and safely. If you’re hitting some upper-body work using a light resistance band, it will increase neuromuscular activation (the muscle’s ability to communicate with the brain) and improve muscle hypertrophy, efficiency and effectiveness of your workout.
A recent study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed subjects who performed a dynamic warm-up significantly improved their strength and power during a vertical-jump test. Our muscles fire faster and more efficiently with an exercise-specific warm-up. Implementing a banded dynamic warm-up is not only easy (resistance bands can be kept in your gym bag and weigh virtually nothing) but also is an excellent means to keep your joints healthy before loading and maintain injury-free movement.
Using a low-moderate resistance band, attach the band to something stable. Lie on your stomach and place the band just below your ankles. Flex your knees slowly to end range, feeling a contraction in the back of your legs. With control, slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for three sets of 10.
Using a moderate resistance band, cross the band into an “x” and then stand both feet on top of the band a little wider than hip-width apart. Take 10 steps to the left, always keeping tension in the band and ensuring that you are not dragging your right foot. Without turning around, take 10 steps to the right. You should feel this exercise in your glutes and hips more than your quads. Make sure you have a slight hinge in your hips and are sitting back in your heels with your knees stacked over your ankles to get good glute activation.
You can perform monster walks and lateral walking in tandem. Using a smaller band with moderate resistance, step both feet into the band and begin taking a step out to the side and diagonally up (resembling a monster). After about 10 steps, reverse this, walking 10 steps backward.
Using light to moderate resistance, attach the band to something stable. Put your left foot into the band and with control kick out to the side. Pause at the top of the motion with a slow and controlled return. This resistance-band activity also will activate your gluteus medius, a muscle that’s sometimes “silent” in many runners and weightlifting populations.
Banded Good Morning
Using moderate resistance, put both feet into the band with your feet under your hips. Bring the top of the band up and over your shoulders like suspenders. Push your hips back, sitting into your heels, allowing for only a slight bend in your knees at the bottom of this movement. You should feel this loading in your hamstrings and warming up your glutes.
Using light resistance, place both your feet into the band with your feet directly under your hips. Bring the band into a front-rack position, moving first into a squat, squeezing your glutes at the top of your squat, then finally pressing out overhead. This exercises is a great full-body warm-up for your glutes and shoulders.
Using a light to moderate resistance band, attach the band to something stable about an arm’s-length above you. With your elbows and shoulders in a 90/90 position (90 degrees of elbow flexion and 90 degrees of shoulder flexion), bring the band back to your face just above your eyes. Your elbows should be pointing straight back at the end of the motion. Try this exercise for three sets of 15.
Internal and External Rotation
Attach the band to something stable using light resistance. Take a few steps out until you feel some tension in the band. Keeping your right elbow pinned at your side, rotate out (external rotation) using control. If you cannot maintain your elbow at your side or if it’s hard to move out, you may need to reduce the tension on the band. Turn and face the opposite direction while holding onto the band with the same arm and rotate in (internal rotation) toward your stomach. This direction may feel slightly easier than external rotation. If so, increase the resistance band for this motion to mimic the feel of external rotation. Try this exercise for three sets of 10.
90/90 Internal and External Rotation
Apply the same concepts as above, but instead of keeping your elbows at your sides, bring your elbows and shoulders into a 90/90 position (90 degrees of elbow flexion and 90 degrees of shoulder flexion). Be sure to use a light band for this exercise because it is more challenging than the previous exercise. This is a great warm-up for any exercise that requires you to press out overhead.
Step on the band with both feet using light resistance for three sets of 10 using control and moving with intention.
Attach the band to something stable using light resistance. With your elbows pinned to your sides, pull down feeling the muscles on the back of your arms engage. Perform a large set of 30 to 40 reps or superset with banded biceps curls.
Using a light band, bring your arms straight out in front of you, squeezing your shoulder blades together behind you. Pick a resistance where you can do a set of 15, feeling fatigue at the end of the set and using a slow, controlled motion to bring your arms in. The closer together your hands are on the band, the more challenging the exercise will be.