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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Questioning Warm-Ups - Solving an Often Overlooked Aspect of Training (Part 2)

Q: I've got a client with a classic kypholordotic posture. He's had issues with his lower back in the past. How should I go about warming him up?

A: Okay, to address a kyphotic (i.e. hunchback) posture, have your client lay on a foam roll lengthwise along the spine working up to 15-20 minutes a day. If performed prior to training, this simple maneuver can increase strength by as much as 3%.

Then perform this series of exercises:

1. Camel/Cat - 5-6 cycles

2. Dog Maneuver aka Fire Hydrant - 5-10 reps

3. Birddog aka Dynamic Horse Stance - 5-10 reps

4. Ab Vacuum - 10-12 reps @ 5-10 sec. contractions

5. Pelvic Tilt - 10-12 reps @ 5-10 sec. contractions

6. PNF Stretches - 2-5 sets @ 6-8 sec. contractions

7. Swiss Ball Stretches - 15 sec. (static); 6-8 sec. (PNF); 5-10 reps (dynamic)

8. Dynamic Stretches - 5-10 reps per movement

You'll recognize most of these movements from my Warm-Up to Strength Training DVD (visit http://www.strengthwarmup.com for more information.) The first 4 drills are performed in the quadraped position (i.e. hands and knees) while the next two are in the supine position (i.e. laying on your back.)

Make sure to perform passive PNF stretches on your client for the following areas: calves, hips (i.e. piriformis, gluteus maximus, tensor fascia latae), hamstrings, hip flexors and knee extensors. I go into extensive detail in my Stretching For Strengthening DVD - look for the second edition later this year.

Have him perform a static abdominal stretch laying over the Swiss ball then instruct him to walk forward slightly so that his upper back and head are resting on the ball. At this point, perform a passive PNF stretch for the pecs. Get your client to then perform a solo PNF stretch for the pecs (3 positions) and shoulders (dynamic side-to-side and forward-and-back) ending with a standing PNF stretch on the ball.

Finally, your client is ready to perform the dynamic stretching circuit as outlined in an earlier Q&A column. Remember, if he experiences low back pain, caution should be used when performing toe touches, side bends and twists. It would be wise to eliminate these exercises initially. Furthermore, encourage neutral spinal curvatures with braced abdominals to maintain a stable core throughout his workout.

Q: Great DVD! Any more warm-up tricks to increase strength?

A: An effective warm-up method involves post-tetanic potentiation. By gradually ramping up your low rep warm-up sets beyond your working weight will increase strength for your work sets. There are different ways to really tap into those high-threshold fibers such as performing eccentrics or heavy supports with loads that are greater than your working weight. Another way to play with your nervous system is to add chains to the bar which will naturally slow down the concentric speed (although the intent must always be fast.) Then remove the chains for your work sets and you'll go through the roof!

Also, a simple piece of advice that I derived from the writings of Ironman's Editor-In-Chief, Steve Holman, is to lock out (i.e. full ROM) on each repetition of your warm-up sets. This will better lube the joints. I said it before and I'll say it again, warm-ups should be about performance not fatigue. If you do not lockout and keep a slight bend at the top range of the movement, you will increase tension and promote fatigue. Good for hypertrophy training, not so good PRE-hypertrophy training!

Q: Quick question, in an article of yours, you stated that some studies show absolutely no difference in performance with or without a prior warm-up. So why bother warming up then?

A: Quick answer comes from pg. 161 of Supertraining: "Almost all studies which show warming-up to be detrimental used untrained subjects who apparently cannot tolerate high-intensity warm-ups." Furthermore, "athletes in endurance events or low intensity sports do not benefit much from warming up." (Siff & Verkhoshansky, 1999)

Q: In your Warm-Up to Strength Training DVD, you mention that static stretching may decrease strength. I used to do at least half an hour of static stretches before weights. Then, I would use a light weight to warm-up on each exercise. What a big mistake! Ever since I started incorporating your dynamic stretching circuit with the specific warm-up suggestions, I've actually started to make some progress. Just curious, anything else that zaps strength?

A: Well, there is something else but you may not want to hear it. I'll let the following abstract break the news. You ready? Sit tight; this may be painful...

Alterations in grip strength during male sexual arousal.
Jiao C, Turman B, Weerakoon P, Knight P.
Int J Impot Res. 2005 Oct 27
School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Although it is known that alterations in grip strength occur under a number of conditions, little is known about relationships between grip strength and sexual arousal. This relationship was investigated in 30 healthy heterosexual males, who viewed both erotic and nonerotic videos. A questionnaire was used to assess the extent of sexual arousal. The grip strengths of both hands were measured with a five-position (P1-P5) dynamometer, before and after watching the videos. After watching the erotic video, there was a statistically significant reduction in grip
strength for the P2 position, with nonsignificant overall reductions in grip strength
for all other positions tested. No such effect was observed in control tests. The
results indicate that during sexual arousal, the neural system is likely to reduce the
output to muscles not directly related to sexual function, presumably to enhance
the physiological responses of sexual arousal.

Take-Home Message: Sexual arousal is great anytime of the day EXCEPT right before training!

Q: I have been diagnosed with a SLAP tear in my right shoulder. Haven't decided whether I'm going to go through with the surgery yet, but I don't want to make things worse with my training. The exercises you outline in your Strong and Healthy Shoulders article are really helping. Are there any good stretches I should perform?

A: Anyone experiencing shoulder instability should do themselves a big favor and study the 3-part series "The Disabled Shoulder" by Burkhart, Morgan and Kibler in Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery. You'll notice a version of the anterior/lateral reach that I originally picked up from Stephen Holt and presented in the Warm-Up to Strength Training DVD. Well, here is an exercise termed the sleeper stretch that anyone with a SICK scapula (Scapular malposition, Inferior medial border prominance, Coracoid pain and malposition, and dysKinesis of scapular movement) should perform prior to training.

Lay on your side with the involved arm against the floor and perpendicular to the body. The shoulder and elbow are flexed 90 degrees. The shoulder is passively internally rotated by pushing the forearm toward the floor around a fixed elbow, which acts as a pivot point. This will effectively stretch a tight posteroinferior capsule.

Another variation involves the roll-over sleeper stretch where the shoulder is only flexed 50-60 degrees and you roll forward 30-40 degrees from vertical side lying.

To stretch the posterior musculature more than the posteroinferior capsule, use a traditional cross-arm stretch. Stand with the shoulder flexed 90 degrees and passively adduct the arm. This stretch can also be performed against a Swiss ball.

Finally, a doorway stretch should be performed where the shoulder is abducted 90 degrees and the elbow is flexed 90 degrees on the edge of an open doorway. Lean forward to apply a stretch to the (inferior) capsule of the shoulder.

About The Author

John Paul Catanzaro, B.Sc., C.K., P.F.L.C., is a certified kinesiologist and professional fitness and lifestyle consultant with a specialized honors Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health Science. He owns and operates a private gym in Toronto, Ontario, providing training and nutritional consulting services. For additional information, visit his website at http://www.BodyEssence.ca or call 416-292-4356.

Note: John Paul has a DVD available with demonstrations of the warm-up methods mentioned in this article. It has received a thumbs-up from many experts including Drs. Eric Serrano, Mark Lindsay and Ken Kinakin as well as Olympic strength coach, Charles Poliquin. Visit http://www.StrengthWarmUp.com for more information.

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