If you read my article last week regarding the importance of a good quality warm up, you would now understand just how important they are. Not just for preventing injury but also improving performance.
You would also have read that I mentioned I would be displaying some of my favourite drills over the coming weeks to help you guys get your body primed for the activity you’re about to undertake.
So, firstly I wanted to re-iterate the process from beginning to end. As stated previously, walking on the treadmill for 5 minutes or so isn’t good enough. When you walk into the gym, you need to head straight to either the rower, air bike or ski erg. These are full body movements that will incorporate a good knee bend for the lower body, and shoulder movement for the upper. Start gentle and slowly increase your rate over a 2-3 min period.
Now that that’s out of the way, we need to look at mobilisation.
In this article I will be demonstrating and going into detail of some of my ‘go to’ exercises that target the lower back, upper back, hips and hamstrings.
The first one is the Ironcross, (above) for the lower back. Simply lie on your back, draw your shoulder blades down, away from your ears, arms spread straight out to the side. Draw your feet towards your butt until the knees are but at 90 degrees. Keeping your heels on the ground, gently swing side to side, gradually letting yourself relax more and more and aiming to increase how far you swing each repetition. You should feel a stretch in the side of the lower back and outside of the hip.
Important Tip: Ensure you keep your knees and hips stacked. By that I mean they don’t seperate through the movement. Feet and heels stay in touch with each other also.
Next we need to get into freeing up the thoracic spine (upper back).
For this I go to the side lying thoracic rotation (above). Lying on your side, dow your shoulder blades down away from the ears and set them in place. Bring your feet up until the knees are at 90 degrees. Again, keeping the feet, knees and hips stacked and in alignment, you then lock them down with your bottom arm. DO NOT let them move through the movement or it becomes useless to the thoracic spine. When in position, reach out in front of you as far as possible with your top arm, then drag it back and over to the other side of your body, turning your head along with it. Repeat this for sets of 10 each side, aiming to get further rotation each time.
Important Tip: You’ll have to press down quite firm with that bottom hand to hold your hips in place. Also, you may put a small support like a rolled up towel or cushion under your head to support your neck.
So that’s two basic starting points for the back.
Now we’re going to target the hips.
I go to a supported deep squat for this (below). Why supported? Well, I want to remain as upright as possible for this one. I want to mimic what a nice, deep squat should look like, and its just great for hip heath in general.
Standing close to a rack or support of some sort at arms length, grab hold and drop down as low as possible. Doing this supported should allow you to sink much lower and more upright than if you were to try the standard free standing version. Once down in your squat, set your shoulder blades down and focus on staying upright in the chest. Let yourself sink there for as long as you can tolerate and each session aim to increase the length of time. I like to add tiny sideways movements to give my lower calf/achillies some stretch. 3-5 sets of 30-60 sec is adequate.
Important Tip: As you get more comfortable in that position, you can release some pressure through the hands on the support to a point where they are just there for balance.
Next we’ll go with the Scorpion (below). Great for the front of the hips and you’ll also get a little stretch through the chest/shoulder tie in as you flick the leg over.
Lying face down on the floor, arms out to the side, set your shoulder blades down, away from your ears. From there, swing one leg over to the other side of your body, attempting to touch the ground with your toes. Don’t worry too much if you don’t get there initially, just take it to your end point. Just make sure each time you give this a go, try to improve on the range you got last time.
Important Tip: Aim to keep the upper body as still as possible.
If you start to implement these drills regularly into your warm up routine, I guarantee you’ll feel better not only during your training but afterwards too!
Keep an eye out for more mobility and activation drills to come in the following weeks!