Movement Prep: It’s More Than Just a Warm Up

“Warm up before you begin vigorous exercise”- a standard practice almost everyone has followed for decades, and still good advice today. At One To One, and other advanced training facilities, we aim to make the “warm up” much more productive through effective “Movement Preparation.”

What does Movement Prep mean and what led us to this term?

The age old reasons we have always warmed up are certainly still valid today – gradually increase heart and respiration rate, increase body temperature, increase tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia) elasticity, enhance joint motion, etc., all of which can contribute to better performance and reduced injury risk. Fitness enthusiasts and athletes have always exercised to improve various aspects of physical fitness – lose body fat, gain strength, power, endurance, flexibility, etc. At One To One, a critically important additional objective of all of our client’s training is to improve their “Movement Quality.” By improving movement quality, training can be more safe, efficient and effective, and performance in the gym, on the field, or throughout the day can be enhanced. Effective Movement Prep is one way we can help prepare our bodies to move well (more safely, efficiently and effectively), before we begin training or competing.

The human body is amazing. It can find ways to accomplish tasks or movements despite various injuries, deficiencies, nervous (nerve) inhibitions, etc. through compensations and substitutions. For example, the quadriceps muscles are some of the primary muscles involved in gait (walking, running). However, if someone has completely torn her quadriceps she could still find a way to walk or run, possibly through greater use of her hip flexors or hamstrings or calves, or more likely through a complex compensatory effort involving her entire body, momentum, gravity, etc. While this is a very impressive and valuable ability our bodies have, often we can rely on this ability to accomplish our task at hand instead of recognizing that we have a movement restriction or limitation that we may be able to improve or correct. Over time, accomplishing movements through compensation or substitution patterns can cause undue and damaging wear and tear, and also will limit how well we can execute the particular movement.

A completely torn quadriceps is an extreme example, and unless in a true emergency no one would attempt to walk or run with such an injury. However, almost everyone has more subtle restrictions that they may be unaware of and train through. Watch any road race (5K, 10K, Marathon) and you will see runners, even ones who lead the pack, who seem to have very poor form (maybe bad posture, maybe uneven symmetry, loud landings, feet pointing in odd directions, knees buckling in or bowing, etc.). Observe weightlifters in a big box gym, even ones who are very big and strong, and you will see people executing lifts with poor form, unsafe back positions, poor ranges of motion, misaligned joints, etc. Often these runners or weightlifters will continue to put in more miles, or load on more weight, in their efforts to progress, but sooner or later they will get hurt. However, if these exercisers regularly implemented effective movement preparation techniques, they may be able to improve their posture, grace, alignment, range of motion, form, technique, etc. (all elements of movement quality), and actually make more gains in speed or strength while avoiding injury.

Movement Prep can be implemented generically or specifically. For example, when we train our high school sports teams we will have ten to twenty student athletes show up for conditioning after having been sitting in class all day with spines flexed, hamstrings and hip flexors shortened, shoulders rounded, forward head posture, etc. Our general movement prep for the group might include foam rolling and stretching these shortened muscles and including neuromuscular activation exercises for all the areas that have been relatively dormant throughout the day. With our one-on-one personal training clients we can individually assess their posture, gate, flexibility and movement mechanics, and can implement techniques specifically selected to address any restrictions or movement deficiencies we observe.

Some common techniques that we use at One To One during the movement preparation phase or our workouts include foam rolling, massage stick, static and dynamic stretching, Egoscue “e-cises” (from the Egoscue Method), among others.

Effective Movement Prep goes well beyond simply warming up… it is designed to address potential impediments to effective or quality movement.