How to get the most gains from a good pre-workout routine
When we hear the word “pre-workout” we often think about a strong black coffee and a supplement to get us wired and geared up for training.
Yes, this can make us feel stimulated for our session but does this help the body get prepared for what we are about to do?
It is not only important for us to be mentally focused using stimulants and visualisation but it is also highly recommended to get our bodies in the right zone as well.
With most of us sitting behind a desk all day or spending a lot of time standing (and leaning on one hip), risking weak knee and hip structures, warming the body up is more vital than ever.
Walking into the gym and “preparing” your body for a workout session are you one of these people that simply do a quick cardio warm up, consisting of a gossip with a friend or a breeze through Facebook, a lame excuse of a side to side stretch and then lift some weights and get cracking?
Whether your goal is to get stronger, be fitter or simply look leaner, your time on your warm up should be considered just as important as your time on your workout.
The pre-workout phase of any weight training programme should consist of elevating the heart rate, movements such as rowing, cycling or running to increase our core temperature and increasing blood and oxygen circulation throughout the body. Secondly stretching, using dynamic movements, like lunging combined with an upper body twist. This allows the body to stretch without limiting force production, which can be caused by static stretching (think, touching your toes and holding for 30 seconds…..ideal for a cool down but not so much for warming up).
Why is this important?
When it comes to weight training, one of the most frequent injuries are to the joints due to the high level of strain that weightlifting can cause. By increasing the body temperature, you are creating your muscles to become more elastic, lowering the risk or a muscle pull or strain. Muscles that are warmed up properly will be able to contract with more force and be able to recover quicker during rest periods. With warmer muscles, your body’s strength and speed will be increased and your joints will be more capable of extending safely through full range of motion.
A majority of weightlifters have once in their time complained about stiffness, inflexibility and injuries.
All factors that, by not ensuring a thorough warm up, can occur.
Tightness within shoulders, ankles, hips, IT band (side of thigh), hamstrings and thoracic spine (between shoulder blades) can contribute towards impingements and tears. Tight shoulders and thoracic are largely created by a hunched over position at a desk.
A survey, carried out by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) found that 45% of 16-24 year olds suffered with neck and upper back problems due to the hunched over back, and a whopping 86% of the 2,000 questioned said back and neck pain was a problem.
By using a dynamic warm-up, you will be improving system activation, power, and range of motion at your joints.
Dynamic exercises performed before weightlifting can increase blood flow, metabolic activity, temperature, oxygen uptake, muscle compliance, nerve impulses, decrease resistance of connective tissues and reduce muscle tension. This type of warm-up creates minimal (to no) muscle damage, so it’s fine to do on a regular basis.
When you have mobile soft tissue and a rapid response nervous system, you’ll be able to move better and perform exercises that challenge your body. This means more productive workouts and a healthier physique. Static stretching can create a temporary strength deficit, diminish jump performance and decrease running economy for up to 1 hour, since the sensitivity of tension receptors in muscles is decreased.
Adding static exercises to a dynamic warm-up may diminish the force increases from a purely dynamic protocol.
Instead, foam rolling can be included as part of a warm-up since it helps with mobility and breaks down scar tissue/adhesions. This relaxes the fascia and makes muscle more pliable.
In addition to all this, warming-up aids with keeping the body cool. Warming up triggers processes in the body (i.e. sweating, increased breathing rate) that assist in cooling down muscles and joints when they begin to get too hot. By performing a proper warm-up, you can reduce the effect that heat has on your muscles and joints when initially beginning your weight training routine.
OK, I got it for the warm- up once I get to the gym….but what do I eat?
When performing a warm-up routine, additional hormones are automatically secreted to provide your body with energy via additional carbohydrates and fatty acids. These additional hormones are crucial for a successful and productive workout.
What and when you eat before a workout can make a big difference to your performance and recovery. By eating a meal 1-2 hours before training which is high in protein with complex carbs, you will be looking to sustain more energy throughout your session, stay hydrated, preserve muscle mass and speed up recovery (not such severe DOMS).
Protein helps maintain and increase muscle mass, flooding your bloodstream with amino acids when your body needs them most boosting your muscle mass capabilities.
When combining protein with carbs, you will be stimulating the release of insulin, again improving muscle synthesis and preventing protein breakdown,
Not only before a workout, but protein with some simple carbs immediately after training, boosts protein synthesis which maximises muscle and strength building. After weight training, muscles are hungry for nutrients and a fast-digesting high protein/high simple carb meal has been shown to deliver superior muscle-building results.
So, all I need is to eat right?
Yes and no. A healthy meal of proteins and carbs are ideal to keep you going throughout your workout.
However, we lack some key nutrients in our lifestyle that can aid with muscle growth and recovery.
Vitamin C plays an essential role in helping the body deal with stress. It is an antioxidant, which helps with dealing with metabolic stress, such as weight training and can help reduce coughing and wheezing during an intense session.
Vitamin B is also been known to help the body form red blood cells and get or make energy from food. It can also help reduce inflammation and regulate mood and sleep patterns. In other words, this vitamin helps fine-tune the essential bodily processes that need to be in place in order for you to feel strong during a workout, or any other time of day.
These supplementations can be found in a multi vitamin to aid with your session and after.
During your workout you might also want to look at taking three further supplements, creatine, BCAA and glutamine.
Creatine has been shown to increase protein synthesis by pushing water into muscle cells and to increase phosphocreatine stores in muscle tissue, which is used to make more ATP (energy) to allow you to train at high intensity for longer.
Branched chain amino acid (BCAA) blends consist of a mixture of three important amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. The body uses amino acids to help digest food, repair body tissue and promote growth, among other functions. Commonly found in protein sources such as meat and eggs, the three amino acids that make up BCAA blend are essential for people looking to build muscle, and also repair damaged muscle tissue after intense workouts.
Glutamine reduces catabolism (causing depletion of muscle) and is the predominant amino acid found in skeletal muscle, making it highly important for protein synthesis.
But is it just the body that needs preparing?
Preparing the mind for what we are about to do is just as important as preparing the body. We have all done it, when we have walked into the gym with our favorite training gear, playlist ready and training programme in hand. Except, when we go to pick up the weights it feels heavy. Then you remember all the chores and tasks you are yet to do at home and work. Your focus at hand is gone and your mind begins to drift, sending your body in autopilot and not allowing you to get the most out of your workout.
This is where visualistion can have a positive and detrimental effect on our session. First, picture yourself doing each exercise, visualise each rep as being perfect and strong, with your body capable to move at ease, feeling out of breath but feeling strong and in control.
When you finally do get into the gym you will already have done your entire workout in your mind, having already felt the exercises and having embraced the positive feeling of the session you will find it completely determine the effect of your workout. Your body will respond to the positive suggestions that you made to yourself.
When performing a warm-up routine, the mind will enter a state of focus and preparation required for the exercises that you are about to perform. This increase in focus allows the mind to remain positive, relaxed, and with an increased level of concentration.
Aboard the gains train
With putting structure and a level of focused importance on your pre-workout routine, you will find that gains will be made from your weightlifting, allowing you to get the most out of your programme and not have to worry about adding in an additional session to make up for any bad ones.
Your warm up should be considered an essential part of the workout, making you stronger, improving your body control, balance agility and movement mechanics.