I don’t know what it is about warming up that triggers us humans (myself included) to get real lazy and skip this important pre-workout ritual, when we know it is in fact in our best interest to participate from a performance and injury prevention standpoint. Perhaps it’s something in our DNA, which as we know hasn’t really evolved considerably over the last 10,000 years, that tells us there is no reason to partake in extra physical activity prior to participating in that same endeavor thereafter.
After all, when it came to catching prey, our primitive relatives didn’t warm-up (as far as we know) and there sure as hell wasn’t any time to warm up when another creature was attempting to make us their prey!
Times have changed however, as have objectives. Our ancestors didn’t care much about aesthetics or athletic performance, especially at a time when the life expectancy was supposedly only 16 years. Instead of worrying about bicep dimension or standing vertical jump measurements, their sole purpose in life was staying alive. It could be debated that since their life expectancy was only a mere 16 years, a warm-up may not have been as necessary at it is for us “older folks” (ages 20-60). This is because the longer we live the more opportunity we have to sustain overuse injuries to soft tissue and joints, which may need to be addressed pre workout if our goal is to improve performance. As an aside though, think about how much better their hunting skills may have been had they communally warmed up prior to going on a hunting expedition (much like a sports team would before a game). Perhaps they would have done much better at “the hunting game”... Or not?
I’ve often pondered about saying, “The hell with all training methodology." As a former track and field athlete, I thought "how about about just waking up first thing in the morning, lacing up my sneakers, walking outside to the front of my driveway, and proceeding to sprint my ass off for 15 seconds". But it wouldn’t end there! I’d have my girlfriend set the timer on my Casio G-Shock to go off randomly 3-4 times each day (without me knowing when) and no matter where I was or what I was doing at the time, I’d be forced to immediately burst out into a full sprint without any time to think, let alone warm up. What would happen if I just burst into sprints every so often? Would my body be able to handle it, or would I be inviting injury?
What if I were a caveman and I woke up to a Sabertoothed tiger trying to eat me? Would he give me time to warm up?
Essentially, the goal would be to force my body to adapt like an animal, or our primitive ancestors. This could potentially work well for those who work in a gym too. Calculate your 1RM on one of the main powerlifts (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) and have someone set a timer on your watch that beeps 5x throughout the day, and at that moment you must lift a max attempt. Over time will the body adapt? I don’t know the answer to this and since I’m pretty set on my ways I’d rather not make myself the guinea pig. But if anyone feels daring and spontaneous enough to give this a good old fashioned try, please report back on the results.
What I do know is that there are in fact proven benefits to a good warm-up before physical activity and in Part II of this series I will go over them in their entirety. In Part II I’ll cover the objectives of a proper warm-up, along with the positive effects it may have on our preparation for athletic performance. I will also discuss the movements that should be incorporated along with videos.