Written by: Kevin Cann
The topic of warmups has really been chapping my ass of late. I can’t walk out of my office without seeing someone flop around on or with some specialty mobility device. Even better, I will come back out of my office 30 minutes later and that same person is still doing the same thing that they were doing before, except this time on a different spot of the body.
If you are doing this your warmup sucks.
I have been training with Boris Sheiko for over a year and a half now. Many of these sessions require me to perform 3 competition lifts. If I spent an extra 30 minutes warming up, I would never get any work done, in or out of the gym.
Rewind a year and I would have been promoting this stuff more. I am not saying that it is useless or not worthwhile, but in most cases mobility tools are used ineffectively and inappropriately. This is probably due to the massive amount of misinformation out there.
Mobility tools do not break up scar tissue, they don’t release anything, and they do not alter tissue structure in any physical way. If you have a healthcare provider telling you this, get a new healthcare provider. You are making zero structural changes to your body when you utilize a mobility tool, unless you’re rolling out with a bulldozer.
The mobility tool can affect neurological input. If you feel tight, or you have some pain, and you apply a mobility tool to the area it can feel better. However, it does not feel better due to structural changes. Instead your nervous system received a stimulus that it relayed to your brain that sent the message to your receptors to feel this new stimulus instead of the pain you felt before. This is a temporary distraction for your nervous system.
Once you apply this drill with the mobility tool, you have a short window of opportunity to utilize this new ROM. So, if you are rolling out/”releasing” everything for an extended period of time, by the time you get to the end, you have lost the window you created for the areas that you began with.
I often hear people’s rationale for using these tools because their hips feel “tight” when they squat or their lower back feels tight when they deadlift. A mobility device does not make your technique better, or make you stronger in any way. Perhaps your lower back would not hurt if you used your legs with it to initiate the pull.
Technique affects strength and strength affects technique. As the weights become too heavy the body will lose proper positions. The goal of training is to make these technique breakdowns happen at heavier weights. How do we do this? We leave the ego outside of the gym, use appropriate intensities and volumes, and use the proper variations that will enhance our technique in the specific positions of each lift. From there we progress appropriately.
Oh yeah, by the way June 3rd I will be covering these variations when I breakdown the Sheiko System in a seminar approved by the man himself. Click here for more information.
You need to ask yourself if your issues are caused because of strength, technique, or something else? If you are unsure why you are doing specific things in your warmup, then your warmup sucks and it needs to be changed to be more productive.
The best warmup you can be doing is a lighter form of the exercise in which you are going to be performing. If you are about to squat, warmup with the bar, and gradually work up to your weights. Every rep from 50% and up is written out for me in my program.
To warmup I may hit a half kneeling hip flexor stretch quick if I have been sitting for an extended amount of time, followed by cable pullthroughs for 2-3 sets of 20, followed by the empty bar 1-3 sets of 5, and finish it up with 135lbs for 1-2 sets of 3-5 reps. This takes less 5 minutes and I am ready to go.
If you feel the mobility tools are effective in your training, use them between warmup sets of the exercise. Take the empty bar, use the mobility tool, take 95lbs, use the mobility tool, take 135lbs, use the mobility tool, and at that point you should be good to go. No need to use it for more than 30 seconds at a time.
This allows you to utilize the small window of increased ROM, under load, within the exercise you are trying to improve. I still feel that in most cases this is completely unnecessary. If you have problems hitting depth because your hips are too “tight” add in pause squats to your program with the correct volumes and intensities.
My technique was horrendous when I first started training. I even received an email from Sheiko that stated “Frankly speaking this is terrible.” It was not that I needed mobility in certain areas to improve my technique although an assessment would have come across this way.
It was because my technique was terrible as were my strength levels. I have not touched a foam roller during this time. Instead I performed variations of the exercises to work on my weak positions and over time I became stronger. As my technique and strength increased my back and shoulder “tightness” have gone away.
I did strain a pec not too long. This was very minor and more of an annoyance than anything. However, I could feel it during the bench and it was effecting my lifting. I grabbed an Acumobility ball and performed some exercises with it in my pec while warming up for bench. This helped by giving my nervous system a different stimulus to react to. Instead of feeling the pain it felt the ball in my chest. This allowed me to bench with less pain. After 2 weeks I no longer needed it. So I stopped using it and haven’t needed it since.
The device allowed my body to desensitize to the pain stimulus it was feeling previously as did training. If you continuously are relying on the same mobility “releases” every time you enter the gym, it is not working and other things need to be addressed, like volume, intensity, and technique.
We want to maximize our time in the gym to peak performance. If you are blindly using mobility devices for the wrong reasons or for extended periods of time (both acutely and chronically) you are wasting your time and your warmup sucks. You would be better serving doing exercises that will get you a bigger total. End rant.