Warmups should always be done before any exercise, to understand the importance of warmups think of your muscles like a ball of plasticine, when you have a cold ball of plasticine and you try to stretch it into a long piece it will probably break. But that that same ball and roll it around your hand and get it warm and it will be a lot more stretchy!
Your muscles behave similarly, if you suddenly decide to sprint or lift heavy weight without warming up it can cause you to pull or tear a muscle. There are all sorts of fancy warmup routines that people subscribe to – I personally just get myself the light kettle bell and do a few repetitions of each exercise.
- 2 minutes skipping
- 6 kettlebell orbits (grab a kettlebell and let it hang by your side, then let it orbit around you by passing it from one hand to the other)
- 10 swings
- 10 kettlebell presses (5 each side)
- 4-6 kettlebell halos
- 10-15 burpees
- 10 situps
- 2 minutes skipping
I have a bad meniscus that need to pay particular attention to know and I have a whole routine for that – if you have an injury you may way to contact a physio to get a warmup routine made for you.
Warmups in-between exercises
Warmups aren’t just for the beginning of your workout session either, if you’re following the kettlebell basics 101 workouts chances are you’re doing the exercises in blocks of sets. E.g. 3 sets of swings, 2 minutes of turkish getups, 3 sets of kettlebell presses and the end with 3 sets of kettlebell lunges
In-between your exercises, you may find some parts of your body becoming cold, so it’s important to do a few sets with a light weight before doing the lift set.
The subject of whether to stretch or not is a controversial, the old school dogma was that you should stretch before exercise, some even went as far as to say you should stretch before warmups! On the contrary, I have a background in strength training and we were taught to AVOID any stretching before lifting, because stretching has been proven to relax your muscles which impairs performance. Rather we did dynamic warmups which got our bodies warm without the static stretching.
Although I don’t do any power-lifting any more, I tend to still subscribe to that thought for two reasons:
- Stretching should never be done cold, just like with the plasticine example, when your muscles are too cold and you try to stretch beyond your normal range there is a increase chance of pulling a muscle. Ideally you should do a light warmup before stretching.
- Secondly you can do dynamic stretching while warming up which serves both functions, basically stretching while moving, without holding. Example below:
(This is a good example of dynamic stretching, it’s exhaustive and should be a good starting point.)
So does that eliminate stretching?
Not at all, stretching is important for flexibility, lack of flexibility can cause injury as the muscles in your body become “imbalanced”. Our bodies are balanced by having opposing muscles either side namely the posterior and anterior. Due to the way the human body was designed to move the posterior chain tends to have the bigger muscles groups. E.g. glutes are the biggest muscle group in the body, hamstrings are bigger than their opposing quadriceps. Because of this a common imbalance occurs by developing tight hamstrings which can lead to minuscal tears and back injury as the tight hamstring disrupt the natural body movement and put your back out of alignment.
It’s important to have a regular stretch routine, it’s just that before workout is probably not the ideal time. I tend to do my thorough stretch routine immediately after working out which is perfect because your muscles are warm and you can really stretch to your limit. It’s also a good idea to stretch on your rest days.
Warmups are a neglected part of training, men feel less inclined to stretch more than women for some reason, but it never ends pretty, failing to warm up repeatedly will increase your chance of injuries, failing to stretch will reduce your flexibility and cause imbalances in your body.