27 Jul Warming Up to the Animus Training & Performance Blog
Before I get into any of the fun stuff, I want to preface by explaining what this is and why I am doing it. I have found, by and large, that there is a lot of training ideas in the Parkour community that don’t exactly fan out. At the same time, I see the efforts of the Eat.Move.Improve, Parkour Visions in Seattle, APEX Movement in Denver, the Monkey Vault in Toronto, and several others in the community attempting to provide good, solid, and scientifically founded information on training protocols. We all have our own styles, our own methods, and our own ideas, and I would love to see more dissemination of that knowledge to traceurs around the world, and even amongst ourselves.
What I will be doing in this blog is providing a series of articles, much like at EMI, on training. I want to ensure practitioner safety, first and foremost. But, as the name of this blog implies, this is about training and performance. If I can provide the means to turn you into the fastest, strongest, and most explosive traceur you’re capable of becoming, then I will have done my job. In addition to this, I want to be able to answer as many questions as possible that people might have about training, so feel free to shoot one over to email@example.com if you’d like any questions answered about training or performance.
Onto the meat…
In this first entry, I think it makes the most sense to cover what a proper warm-up is. A lot of the times, people will hop onto the treadmill or take a jog, do some static stretches, and call themselves warmed up for activity. In Parkour, we have made great strides to educate people on why static stretching pre-work-out isn’t a good idea, but we still often see many people do some cardio, a few push-ups and squats, and then call it a day. The warm-up is essential in the recovery process, and for the next few entries, I will be going through the multiple aspects of programming for recovery. The first step is learning that recovery begins before you ever step foot in the gym or onto the concrete.
What makes a good warm-up…
There are three main aspects of a good warm-up: Myofascial release, mobilization, and dynamic priming. The self-myofascial release (SMR) involves your foam rolling, light massage, tennis ball rolling, Theracane, etc. This is what promotes bloodflow into your muscles and starts to loosen you up for what’s coming ahead. Next, when we run through a series of mobility drills, not only are we increasing our mobility and range of motion (ROM) for what’s coming ahead, but we slowly make gains toward increasing our mobility in every day life. The more mobile you are, the less prone you are to injury, the better your posture, etc. etc. Finally, we end on some activity-specific dynamic exercises. These light dynamic movements prime the most important muscle fibres (the type II) for maximal effort or explosive work. This means that when it comes down to it, you will be stronger, faster, and more explosive.
Oh, so that’s what that round thing is.
That big round hard cylinder in the corner of your gym is called a foam roller. Nearly every gym has at least one, and its popularity is starting to grow, but there are still plenty of people who don’t know what it is or why it’s so useful. The foam roller is a tool used for self-myofascial release. Great, so what does that mean?
There is a network of tissue that envelopes and permeates your entire muscular and skeletal systems. This is what is known as the fascia. It’s responsible for helping to redistribute impact forces from their origin throughout the body and minimize damage. It also helps in proprioception (the body’s awareness of itself) by aiding in intermuscular, organic, and skeletal communication. What occurs a lot of the time through training (and through every day life) is that adhesions can begin to form in the musculature and fascia of a trainee. When these microtears appear, waste products in the body can begin to cling to them, eventually building up into very painful scar tissue, trigger points, and knots. These can ultimately interrupt the contractile power of a muscle, limit mobility, create excessive muscular tightness, and ultimately lead to injury.
Foam rolling your muscles out pre-workout helps to ensure injury prevention in both the short-term and long-term. The long-term effects are in literally breaking down those adhesions and promoting good tissue quality. This contributes to the elasticity of the muscle and makes it less likely for adhesions to form in the future. In the short-term, the massaging effect on the musculature begins the warming up process by stimulating more blood flow into the muscles. The breakdown of adhesions loosens up the muscles and allows for greater mobility. It can be quite painful to roll out your muscles, especially at first, but almost every person will feel like a million bucks as soon as they get up. Now, what’s not to like about that?
Loosen up without the stretch!
Pre-workout static stretching elongates muscle fibres and is known to reduce power output, contractile force, and strength. In essence, stretching before you workout makes you weaker. And when you’re trying to improve, every little bit of strength, power, and speed is essential. That’s why, in favour of static stretching, we often encourage mobility drills. These exercises move your body through a comfortable range of motion, make you loose and limber without the deleterious effects of stretching, and also begin to lightly work the muscles. After foam-rolling, a good series of mobility drills will have you feeling in top shape.
In addition to this, appropriate mobility drills will help to correct postural deviations which means fewer compensation patterns during technical performance, sports training, and strength training. In the end, postural correction can ensure proper technique, meaning you will get stronger faster and get the most out of your techniques.
Prime time for power
The last component of the warm-up should be some dynamic movements. Explosive exercises recruit fast-twitch muscle fibres and by performing these exercises pre-workout, you entrain the body to recruit more of the motor units devoted to fast-twitch muscle fibres. This lends itself to a more efficient work-out and ensures that you are performing at your best. But the goal is not to do a work-out with power exercises. Keep the reps and sets low and just use it to get you fired up. If it’s a heavy squat day, then do box jumps. If it’s a deadlift day, do broad jumps. Three to five sets of three jumps is fine enough, with a short rest in-between.
When you are preparing for a Parkour training session, it is better to think of what specifically you are going to work for that day and your exercise selection should reflect that. If it is a more general day, just be sure to get a horizontal jump in (as you are more likely to be jumping forward than upward) and a dynamic upper body pull, like a jumping pull-up.
One, two, three, and we’re ready to go!
After we have gone through all the components of a warm-up, you should feel pretty fired up to move. Your body should feel limber, relaxed, and highly mobile. Your heartrate should be elevated just a bit, and the blood flowing through you should be giving you quite a bit of a rush. All-in-all, you should feel ready to go and hit your training hard. Most importantly, you should feel stronger and faster. The warm-up should never take away from the training. It should never fatigue you so badly that your training actually suffers in the end for it. Remember, a warm-up is not a work-out. It might come close to it, depending on your conditioning level, but after a few minutes of rest, you should have a new surge of energy and be ready to tackle the world. Follow this protocol, and your training will be so much more efficient that you are sure to progress.
Andy Tran is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA. He has been involved in North America’s Parkour community for over six years and is one of Urban Evolution’s lead instructors. Andy is also a competitive powerlifter, holding a state title and the raw open records in Virginia for squat, bench press, deadlift, and total at 148lbs with USA Powerlifting.