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July 17, 2011

Weekend Post for July 17, 2011


This week I am going over my warm ups, most notably, the soft tissue work I perform regularly. I believe in starting every workout with a thorough warm up routine. The process depends on what I will be working on that workout. Since my workouts alternate between training my upper body or lower body training, my warm ups come in two varieties.

On upper body days, my primary concern are the muscles with connections near the shoulders, as the shoulder will be in motion for every exercise. I’ll start by taking a light resistance band and performing a few sets of about 20 reps, alternating between pulling the band apart and wrapping the band behind my back and making a pressing motion. This is to increase blood flow to the upper back, shoulders, and pectoral muscles. Also some triceps extensions are thrown in with the resistance band. None of these reps should be the least bit difficult. I will also perform some light shoulder external rotation work for the rotator cuff. Now that the muscles have had some extra blood flow, they are ready to be stretched. However before I do this I include some soft tissue massage. Since I do not keep a massage therapist held captive in my basement gym or at the gym I train at, this is completely performed with a few tools I keep handy. The first item is a foam roller. This is a tube similar to the foam pool floats that are shaped like noodles, except denser. They can be found at most sporting goods stores. They come in a variety of firmness and some even have ridges built in to knead your flesh better. If you can tolerate it, you can improvise and use a PVC pipe, about four to six inches in diameter. Another item that some people use is a massage stick that consists of a cylinder or group of rings that rotate around an axle as you roll it over your body. I improvise with a basic rolling pin found in any kitchen supply store. The third item I use is a baseball. Some folks use a lacrosse ball. The goal is to soften up the muscle tissue by pressing the tool into the flesh and rubbing it around, either back and forth or in a circular motion. Typically I use a recovery tool based on what muscle I am softening. The foam roller for large body parts such as the back and legs, and the baseball for smaller parts such as the deltoids and forearms. On upper body days, I will spend a few minutes, ramming the baseball into the pecs, deltoids, triceps, biceps, and forearms, moving the ball in a small spiral pattern or back and forth an inch or two at a time. For my back I will lay on the floor with the foam roller ( or PVC pipe) beneath me and use my legs to push and pull myself over the roller, letting it knead my upper back. After I have done this, I will perform a few stretches. These include stretching my shoulders in each plane of motion. For my upper back I will hold an upright of a squat rack, lean back and hold that position. Also I will hang from a pull up bar and let my lats stretch. Now I am finally ready to start moving some weight. I always start with the empty barbell and perform one or two sets of 5-10 reps before I ever put weight on the bar.

On lower body days, I start with a few minutes on a stationary bike, just to get the blood flowing. Next is some hip mobility work with focuses on swing my legs for a few reps in each direction. Also I will grab onto either a barbell in a squat rack or other horizontal rail and sit back into a full squat. Next is the soft tissue work. The muscles of primary concern during warming up are my hamstrings and quadriceps. I have a history of minor patellar tendonitis, so I want to keep my quads from getting tight. I place the foam roller ( or PVC pipe) under my legs and use my bodyweight to apply the pressure. I work about ten strokes of about two to three inches before sliding over the roller about two inches and repeat until I have covered the entire limb. I do this for the front of my shins, the quads, hamstrings, and adductors/abductors. I will also lay on the foam roller and work the glutes and lower back in a similar fashion. If you haven’t tried this before I will warn you ahead of time. Foam rolling your lower back will be painful until you get use to it… especially if you opt for the PVC pipe. I still find that foam rolling my IT band is unpleasant. One thing I have noticed is that I can swing my legs forward through a greater range of motion after foam rolling than when I start. This is a sign that I have loosened up my glutes and hamstrings. The last step of my warm ups during lower body days, is a few light squats. If I am deadlifting, I will also perform a few light snatches and/or hang cleans.

If you read Jim’s rant about his tendonitis, one of the things included in his rehab work is soft tissue massage. I keep soft tissue massage in my program as both part of my warm ups and as pre-hab work to help fight off injuries. The benefits are improved flexibility and healthier connective tissue.

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