How to get the most out of our workout and create longevity with our training.
I remember when I first began working out, I was a sponge for knowledge. I would spend hours online searching for the best way to build muscle, reading different bodybuilding articles, and finding new workout programs to try. I would also spend a lot of time observing other people in the gym in between my sets. I wanted to see what exercises they were doing, what weights they were using, and anything else that could help me figure out how they got to where they are. Through all this, it became apparent that many people had different ways of warming up. Some would go straight to the treadmill and spend 5 to 10 minutes on it. Others might spend time foam rolling and then stretching with a band or doing some arm circles and rotator cuff movements with small 2.5 lb plates. Then you had your straightforward people, just do the exercise at a light weight a few times to warm-up before loading on something heavier. With all these different ways people warm-up, what is the best way? How can we prepare our bodies to perform at its best while also keeping our joints healthy and moving well? That is what I want to talk about today, and specifically focus on the upper body in this article.
What Is the BEST Way to Warm-Up for Upper Body Workouts?
The answer any good trainer will tell you is, “it depends…”. I know you came here for a definitive answer, I KNOW. I wish I could say there were 3 movements that universally primed our shoulders and made them impervious to injury, that would be amazing (and what a great article title). While there may not be a universal set of exercises, there are common patterns of muscular tightness and weakness that many people develop, and if you can learn how to recognize some of these in yourself you can better understand what movements you need to improve your shoulder function before a workout to improve performance and reduce your injury risk.
Grandma Would Be So Upset…
We live in an internally rotated world. What I mean is that we live in a world where many of the tasks we do leave us in postures that would send grandma off her rocker. The slouched shoulders, rounded upper back, and head extending forward like a long neck goose, all put us in a position that can make it difficult for our shoulder blade stabilizers and external rotators to maintain stability while lifting heavier weights. I would like for you to fully understand what I am talking about when I say internal versus external rotation, so if you will please humor me stand up and relax your arms to your sides. Are you there yet? Great! (I tend to be optimistic). From this relaxed posture, turn the palm of your hands in until they face the wall behind you (figure 1). This is the internally rotated position of the shoulder that we tend to spend a lot of time in. You will notice by doing this your shoulders might round forward, and if you really exaggerate this, you can see how it is easy to end up in a hunched over position with the forward head goose neck posture. Now turn your palms the opposite way until they begin to face the wall in front of you and keep going until your feel your shoulders start to draw back (figure 2). This is an externally rotated position, and while it is not the exact position we want to get into when lifting weights, a shoulder that is externally rotated is generally one that is more stable when pressing or lifting overhead. Okay, thanks for playing along.