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Warm-up Methodology within Personal Training

September 03, 2010 by NCSF 0 comments

Using logical methodology in all the components of a personal training session provides for efficient and effective services. When included as part of a comprehensive and integrated plan, this will often provide the greatest level of benefit and adaptive response in a client. Training sessions, regardless of length, should always begin with a warm-up. A proper warm-up, or progressive preparation, is the crucial component of a personal training session. Upward linear preparation or bodily acclimation is certainly necessary for intense work levels. Similar to a car running “cold” kinetic machines need time to warm up to improve the internal environment; cold bodily tissues resist movement, are less pliable, have reduced cellular enzyme activity, lower capillary activation and allow for less rapid neural conduction rates. For the body to function optimally, it must be pre-activated and warmed up.

Most personal trainers understand that it is necessary to implement a warm-up prior to intense exercise, but the underlying mechanisms behind this fact may not be completely understood by many practitioners. Certainly tissues warm-up but the impact affects many systems. Furthermore, there are various methods that can be used to prepare a client for intense exercise that should reflect his or her individual needs, interests, capabilities and limitations, and the activity about to be performed.

The increase in bodily temperature that occurs during a quality warm-up segment triggers the following physiological actions that can improve performance during the personal training session:

Regardless of the protocol used, the warm-up segment should be progressive in nature starting with basic, slower movements and succeeding into more complex, faster movements. Warm-ups are generally categorized as either general or specific. General warm-ups may include fundamental activities such as varied locomotion, jumping rope, cycling, or body weight movements. A common example of this occurs when a personal trainer instructs a client to jog on a treadmill for five minutes to prepare for the workout. This may be appropriate for particular clients or those with specific limitations; but will only provide for core temperature elevation and activation of the lower extremities. To address the individual needs of most clients, a specific warm-up should be incorporated to optimally prepare the tissues for the designated activities that will be performed during the personal training session.

Specific warm-ups attempt to utilize movement patterns and musculature that will be used during the particular activities of the personal training session. This makes them useful for physically warming up muscles and enhancing the neuromuscular pathways employed during the training activities. This is common in athletics where an athlete would engage in low level ballistics, low-intensity sprints and form running drills prior to a high-intensity sprinting session. For the personal training client, warm-ups may be more aimed at corrective or preventative activities. Due to the minimal contact time between a trainer and a client it makes sense to take advantage of every minute of a training session. Dynamic range, stabilization training, and muscle balance via coordinated movement patterns may be used to enhance the musculoskeletal system in a planned approach to functional improvement. Both performance and functional warm-ups are hybrid versions of a “specific” or purposeful warm-up that are highly utilized in the personal training profession.

Performance warm-ups are great for clients with an athletic emphasis; who engage in advanced activities including strength and power training programs which demand comprehensive preparation. Activities used in this type of warm-up combine gross large muscle group movements with more specialized, sport-specific movements. The movements gradually increase in intensity and complexity over a total of 15-20 minutes before transitioning into the intense training segment. General activities may be only 40%-50% of the training intensity whereas during the specific phases the intensity is usually closer to the actual work or 20%-30% below the training intensity used during the work segments. Additionally the specificity includes a focus on particular skills and motor patterns to be trained in attempts to help the client improve overall performance for a defined need (i.e., sport or recreational activity).

An example could include:

  1. a light aerobic activity for 3-4 minutes
  2. moderate intensity dynamic stretches
  3. low intensity agility and speed ladder drills
  4. low intensity, plyometrics utilizing the body weight or light medicine balls

A functional warm-up often serves the purpose of increasing joint stability and proprioceptive ability through focusing on potentially weak areas of the body (e.g. rotator cuff, core musculature) while preparing the client for a comprehensive personal training session. Strengthening the ‘weak links’ of the body can allow for improved transfer of energy across the entire kinetic chain. This makes it a type of pre-habilitation warm-up protocol.

An example of a functional warm-up (circuit)

  1. 3-5 minutes of light aerobic activity
  2. light cable external and internal rotation
  3. body weight physioball rotation
  4. split stance MB good morning
  5. forward reaches to overhead step backs

As with any component of a personal training session, the activities should match the client’s personal needs and limitations. The best type of warm-up protocol for a client is based on their intended goal, training experience, and current physical capabilities. Personal trainers should always remember that warm-ups are intended to gradually increase core temperature, range of motion, and intensity of work. The sequence of activities should always be sensible (e.g. large gross movements should supersede fast, specific movements) and serve a specific purpose.


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