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Warm Up for Your Workout with Dynamic Stretching to Avoid Injury

by | May 20, 2021 | Get Active | 0 comments

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From family-friendly challenges to belly-busting moves, Grey Cup champion and fitness coach Tommy Europe will have you working up a (light) sweat in weekly virtual fitness classes throughout Canadian Men’s Health Month. Follow @DontChangeMuch on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and join Tommy’s virtual workout events.

We’ve all been there… you’re pressed for time, so you skip the warm-up, and you jump right into exercising. Bam!!! Whether during your routine or picking up a sock from the floor hours later, the muscle cramp takes you down like a lion on a gazelle.

Let’s not use the word “geezer” just yet, but if you’re like me, you’re not a spring chicken anymore. Now more than ever, it’s important to warm up properly to avoid injury and get the results you want.

Here’s my three-step process to a safe workout so you can feel amazing.

Step 1: Get warm

A short warm-up will vastly improve your performance, focus, and results. Start with 5-10 minutes of light cardio, which can include walking, jogging, jumping jacks, jump rope, biking, anything that gets you moving. Muscles that are warm and relaxed help you move easily with less pain and stiffness. A good warm-up is like adding lubrication to your joints, which will help you move better.

As you age, this becomes a big deal! It’s also a good time to mentally prepare by clearing your mind and focusing on the task at hand. Think of it as getting into “the zone.” Read more about the benefits of a proper warm-up at the end of this article.

Step 2: Get limber

Once you’re warm, move on to some Dynamic Stretches that continuously move your body for 5-10 minutes. It’s best before exercising because it takes the muscles through their full range of motion. You’ll only be holding each movement for 2-5 seconds and repeating that movement generally 10 to 15 times each repetition.

You’re building strength, mobility, and coordination with dynamic stretching. Avoid Static Stretching at the beginning of your workout; save it for after. Dynamic stretching is different from static stretching because the stretch position is not held.

At the bottom of this article, you’ll find my list of my recommended upper and lower body dynamic stretch routines.

Step 3: Get motivated

Set an exercise goal to motivate yourself. Ensuring you warm up properly will keep you on track. June is Men’s Health Month, and I am encouraging everyone to Move for Your Mental Health. Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Set a goal for June and get involved in a good cause. Make Your Move Pledge—See more info below.
  2. Join my weekend workouts throughout June. They’re free or by donation when you register for Men’s Health Month.

Register for Men’s Health Month

When you register for Men’s Health Month, you’ll get free online access to my weekly classes offered every Saturday in June.

Back to the Basics (Saturday, June 5, 2021 at 11 am PDT)

My body-weight-only introductory session. This 30-minute workout will take it down to the basics and just get you moving. More moving means more sweating. Don’t forget to have a towel and water bottle on hand.

Suns and Sets (Saturday, June 12, 2021 at 11 am PDT)

The sun is shining, so why not take your show to a park near you. My 30-minute functional, full-body outdoor workout can be done outside at your local park or adapted for indoors if the rain is pouring. Designed for all fitness levels, so bring your kids along.

Father Knows Best (Saturday, June 19, 2021 at 11 am PDT)

Father’s Day family session with the dads calling the shots! This 30-minute sort-of-sweaty workout is suitable for all ages and led by Tommy.

Arms & Abs Blast (Saturday, June 26, 2021 at 11 am PDT)

Fellas, we all like our arms to fill out a shirt nicely, so this workout will make you want to pull out your tight shirt. This 30-minute workout is going to be a fun-filled session with a major focus on arms, using things you can find in the garage and around the house.

Make Your Move Pledge

Pledging to get more active during Canadian Men’s Health Month—say, by walking for 15 minutes daily or taking part in my Sort-of-Sweaty Workouts—will help you stay on track, combat boredom, and give you a sense of accomplishment when you’re done. You can also inspire friends, family, and co-workers to follow your lead. Make Your Move Pledge right now!

What are the benefits of a proper warm-up?

Warm-ups are the most important action to prepare your mind, body and soul. A proper warm-up will prime your heart, lungs, and muscles for what you’re about to do to them. It will also vastly improve your performance, focus, and results.

Here are just a few benefits of a proper warm-up:

  • Muscle temperature increases: Warm muscles move, react, and relax quickly, which reduces your risk of injury and leads to increased muscle elasticity. This is important because a lot of muscle tears are a result of improper warm-ups.
  • Range of motion increases: This allows your large joints (such as your shoulders and knees) to reach their maximum movement potential. As you age, this becomes extremely beneficial!
  • You get mentally grounded: The warm-up is a good time to mentally prepare by clearing the mind and increasing focus. This is a great time to visualize positive imagery, so you can be at your best. Think of it as getting into “the zone.”
  • Less muscle tension and pain. Muscles that are warm and relaxed help you move easily with less pain and stiffness. A good warm-up is like adding lubrication to your joints, which will help you move better.

Dynamic Stretching Routine

Whether you’re planning a full, upper, or lower body workout, the list below will help you stay safe and reach your goals. Now, it’s time to get to work, so let’s do this…after your warm-up!

Lower Body Dynamic Stretches

If you’re training your lower body, start with two or three exercises from this list:

Sumo squats
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Turn your feet and knees out. Literally, picture a sumo wrestler.
  • Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  • Squat while keeping your upper body lifted and chin slightly tucked. Don’t arch your back, and do suck in your belly for support.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

High-knee marching
  • Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, and hands on your hips.
  • Breathe deeply as you march in place, driving your knees up toward the ceiling with each step. Keep your hands on your hips as your march.
  • Shout, “Left! Left! Left, right, left!” just to see what happens.

Watch the video below to see how it’s done.

Glute Bridges

  • Lay on your back with your arms and your sides. Palms down.
  • Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground with your legs shoulder-width apart. You should almost be able to touch your heels with the tips of your fingers.
  • Squeeze your butt cheeks like you’re a human nutcracker and use that power to lift your hips.
  • Keep your torso in a neutral position. Don’t arch your back.
  • Lift your hips until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Keep crackin’ the nut while counting to 5.
  • Slowly lower back to the ground while keeping good form.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

Hip flexor stretches
  • Start on your knees and put one leg out front at 90 degrees. Place a pad under your knee for comfort as needed.
  • Tighten your belly muscles and suck in your butt.
  • Slowly lunge forward and back in a rocking motion, gradually increasing your stretch for about 60 seconds.
  • Switch legs. Repeat.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

Swinging leg kicks

There are two variations. You can do both.

For either variation, remember the following:

  • Stand upright with your abdominal core tight and keep your back in a natural/neutral position. Don’t arch it.
  • Start slowly at first—as you begin to warm up, you can increase the range and pace of your swing.
  • Your leg is straight at all times with a slight knee bend.
  • Complete 10 to 15 reps, then repeat with the other leg.

Front to back swing variation:

  • Stand beside a wall. It should be either on your left or right side of your body. You are not facing the wall.
  • Reach out your closest arm and touch the wall at shoulder height for support.
  • Lift one leg and swing front to back.

Side swing variation

  • Face the wall and place both hands on it at 90 degrees for support.
  • Swing one leg left to right between your support leg and the wall.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

Upper Body Dynamic Stretches

If you’re training your upper body, start with two or three exercises from this list:

Standing bodyweight twists
  • Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent.
  • Clasp hands in front of your chest.
  • Rotate left to right 10 to 20 times.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

Standing bodyweight choppers
  • Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent.
  • Clasp hands in front of your chest.
  • Twist while raising your hands to the right over your head.
  • Bring hands down across your body while you twist to the left finishing in a squatting position.
  • Make sure you’re looking at your hands at all times—it will make your body twist.
  • You don’t need to hold any weight in your hands.
  • Do 10 to 15 reps and then repeat on the opposite side.

Watch the video below to see how it’s done.

Neck rotations
  • Stand up straight and keep your chin level with the ground without letting your chin drop to your chest.
  • Rotate your head slowly and gently from side to side.
  • To start, do not turn your head completely to either side. Keep the motion small at first and increase over time.
  • Do 15 to 30 reps.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

Shoulder rolls or circles
  • Sit upright in a chair or stand.
  • Shrug your shoulders up to your ears, then roll them back and downwards.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and then slowly lower to a relaxed position.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

  • Get on the floor on all fours, positioning your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
  • Extend your legs back so that you are balanced on your hands and toes. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe without sagging in the middle or arching your back.
  • Before you begin any movement, contract your abs and tighten your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine. Keep a tight core throughout the entire push-up.
  • Inhale as you slowly bend your elbows and lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  • Exhale as you begin contracting your chest muscles and pushing back up through your hands to the start position. Don’t lock your elbows; keep them slightly bent.
  • Modification: do knee push-ups as you work towards regular push-ups over time.

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

Bear crawls (Intermediate)
  • You get it. Crawl on all fours like a bear.
  • If you have any issues such as an abdominal hernia, be careful or skip.
  • Start in a push-up position. Hands should be beneath the shoulders. The back is strong, and the core is engaged. Feet should be hip-distance apart with heels off the floor.
  • Begin to move forward by simultaneously moving your right hand and left leg forward with a crawling motion.
  • Immediately after placing your weight on your right hand and left leg, switch sides and move your left hand and right leg forward.
  • Keep your body relatively low and continue in a crawling motion. Imagine that you are crawling beneath a low net.
  • Tip: grip the ground with your fingers to take some weight off your wrists.

Watch the video below to see how it’s done.

Walkouts (Advanced)
  • If you have any issues such as an abdominal hernia, be careful or skip.
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then bend at the waist and place your hands on the floor.
  • Keeping your legs straight (but not locked), walk your hands forward while keeping your abs and back braced.
  • Slowly walk your feet back to your hands.

Watch the video below to see how it’s done.

What is static stretching, and when should I do it?

Static stretching requires you to hold each position for longer periods of time (30-60 seconds). Examples of static stretching include trying to touch your toes, side bends, arm extensions, or laying on your back and holding your hamstrings. Save static stretching for the end of your workout when your goal is to lengthen and loosen your muscles.

Is there a stretch or a routine that gets you prepped for reps? Share your tip in the comments below!

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<a href="https://dontchangemuch.ca/author/tommy-europe/" target="_self">Tommy Europe</a>

Tommy Europe

Tommy Europe is an award-winning fitness coach, a two-time CFL All-Star, and Grey Cup Champion. He starred as the tv host for 6 seasons on The Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp and Bulging Brides. Tommy is also a professional stunt actor, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and KidSport BC ambassador.

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