Except for the rare athlete who has never suffered an injury, most multisport athletes are all too familiar with the pain associated with injuries to skeletal muscles. In fact, over 30% of the injuries treated in sports medicine clinics are muscular injuries. Yet warding off such injuries can be as simple as including a proper warm-up into your training routine.
So given the importance of warming up for injury prevention, what does a proper warm-up look like? In this two-article series, I demonstrate a warm-up tailored for running. The full dynamic run warmup will include three parts: (1) neuromuscular activation, (2) dynamic stretching, and (3) the cardiovascular component (in this case, running).
This article (and video demo) focuses on the first of these three components—muscle activation—and demonstrates some basic muscle activation exercises. Doing these simple muscular recruitment exercises will help to “wake up” the communication lines between the nervous system and the muscular system to ready the body for activity.
Each exercise should be done at no more than 20 percent effort—just enough to facilitate activation of the muscle group. Hold each exercise for 6 to 10 seconds; and do each one 2 to 3 times. The entire muscle activation sequence need only take 3 to 5 minutes at the very beginning of your workout.
Core Snap and Backward Lean
First, start off by engaging the deep abdominals in your core. Imagine that your belly button is the front part of a metal snap that you might find on a jacket, and the back of that snap is located on your spine. Envision snapping that button closed.
To further facilitate deep abdominal activation, lean back on one leg and hold it for 6 to 10 seconds. Then switch to the other leg. Complete 2 to 3 repetitions on each leg.
To activate the quadriceps, balance on one leg while straightening the opposite one. Remember, the effort should be just enough to activate the muscle. Hold for 6 to 10 seconds; and switch to the other leg. Complete 2 to 3 repetitions on each leg.
Medial Glutes Activation
To activate the gluteus medius (medial hip muscles), balance on one leg while extending the other leg diagonally and to the side. Hold for 6 to 10 seconds; and switch to the other leg. Complete 2 to 3 repetitions on each leg.
Hip Flexors, Hamstrings, Glutes Activation
The last activation exercise consists of standing on one leg while bringing the opposite leg up so that the thigh is parallel to the ground. Hold this position for 6 to 10 seconds. Then, drive that leg back so that it is behind your body with the calf now parallel to the ground. Hold this for 6 to 10 seconds; then switch to the other leg. Complete 2 to 3 repetitions for each leg.
Progression toward Balance Drills
Once you have mastered these basic muscle activation exercises, you can gradually add an additional component to work on balance. Simply do each of the exercises just demonstrated using a balance disk. This will further enhance recruitment of core muscles.
Once you’ve completed the neuromuscular part of the warm up, you are ready to proceed into the dynamic stretching exercises to be detailed in the next article in the series.
This article originally appeared in the TrainingPeaks blog.