Fitness by Michael Schletter on 3/12/2014

Ask any trainer what the most important aspect of a workout is. More often than not, the answer you’ll hear is: the warm-up. And it’s not just any warm-up that will do. In the last two years prehab-based warm-ups, a proactive approach to improving strength, mobility and flexibility in the body’s weakest areas, have become a go-to method for eliminating problems — before they arise. According to NYC-based physical therapist and strength coach Joe Vega, MSPT, CSCS, a prehab warm-up can help athletes avoid injury, while improving overall movement quality as well. And though injuries are inevitable, doing a prehab-focused warm-up can help create a stronger, more mobile, and therefore resilient body. It will also allow you to work your hardest, Vega says, meaning maximum benefits from your workouts.

Prehab Basics: The Three “S” Principle

So what constitutes a proper prehab warm-up? First and foremost, it should include a mix of movements geared toward improving mobility, strength and flexibility, Vega says. Translation: exercises that get your body ready to move, no matter what comes your way. To get started, 10 to 15 minutes of prehab work, following his Three “S” Principle, will get your workout started on the right foot, Vega says. These are: Soft-tissue work, Stretching and Strengthening. Before doing deadlifts, for example, this could include foam rolling the calves, hamstrings, glutes, mid/upper back and lats as the soft tissue work. Then, a prayer stretch and some light Romanian deadlifts would help provide an adequate stretch. Lastly, glute bridges and single-leg bodyweight squats will fire up the muscles needed to properly execute your workout — and perform at your best.

The soft tissue work, usually with a foam roller or a lacrosse ball, is to release tight areas in the body. By breaking up scar tissue and adhesions (knots) in muscles, this form of self-myofascial release has been shown to result in an acute increase in mobility (and range of motion), therefore improving quality of movement. And, improved movement will lead to better workouts, and in turn, more results in less time.

After the soft-tissue work, a series of dynamic stretches for the released areas will help ensure good mobility for the workout ahead (detailed below). Lastly, it’s all about movement-specific activation. Just like you would turn on your car before a drive (as opposed to greasing the gears in your bike), you have to activate the muscles that will be worked during the workout. For example, on a squat day, overhead bodyweight squats holding a towel or broomstick between your hands is a good way to start.

Putting It All Together: The Prehab Warm-Up

So how do we put this all into practice? If your gearing up for a leg workout, Vega recommends the following prehab-focused warm-up.

1. Foam Rolling

Focus on:

5 minutes total

2. Stretching

Focus on:
World’s Greatest Stretch for hip flexors
Ankle Circles for ankle mobility
Pigeon Pose for the lateral rotators of the hips
Doorframe Pectoral Stretch for the chest muscles
Toy Soldiers for the hamstrings

5 minutes total

3. Activation

Thoracic Spine Wall Slides, 2 sets of 10
Glute Bridges, 2 sets of 10
Bodyweight Squats, 2 sets of 10
Planks, 2 sets of 30-60 seconds

5 minutes total

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