By Bryan Smith (@Catalyst_SPT)
Have you ever decided to head to the gym after work only to realize that your joints are tighter than Oprah’s final belt loop? We’ve all been there. So if you decide to take out some frustration on the barbell after a long day of working for the man but find yourself walking around like the Tin Man (pre-oil), then maybe you want to take a few minutes to prep your body so you don’t end up with an injury or two.
There are always a few key areas that I recommend my clients foam roll so they get the most benefit from their workout, especially if they spend all day sitting behind a desk. Many studies show that foam rolling will help increase range of motion more effectively than static stretching, so spend some time winking at the girl on the elliptical while you play around on your turquoise roller.
I know it hurts, but man up. Find the tender spots and make them less tender. Get into a ‘70s-era Burt Reynolds Cosmo cover pose (you know the one) and get that roller under your armpit. From there, try to stretch that bottom lat out as much as you can by bringing your elbow closer to your ear. Hit all areas, concentrating on the painful ones. For most of my clients, the restrictions lay just under the armpit.
Squats feeling a bit restricted? Sensing some knee pain during deep flexion? Spend 60 to 90 seconds working on these fibres to give you a bit of relief from the everyday stress you’ve put your legs through. Lay on your side with the roller under your hip. Straighten your bottom leg and lean forward slightly to hit some of the angry anterior fibres. Make sure you roll slowly, getting all the way to the knee and back up a few times, then repeat on the other side. Don’t rush this one.
This muscle is so neglected. Nobody really thinks that these muscles are affected until they roll them. Sit on your roller and cross your right leg over your left knee. Bend your left leg to get yourself into a little pretzel and place your right hand behind you for support. Now, lean to the right and slowly roll the upper half of your glute. Repeat on the other side. Yes, I know you hate me now. I’m fine with that.
Now that you’ve got your rolling out of the way, it’s time to mobilize and get you ready for exercise. Mobility is an often-overlooked activity for warm-ups. Long gone are the days of static stretching. Holding a muscle at the end range of a joint is just not as beneficial as we used to believe. Moving through a joint’s range of motion is much more ideal for exercise prep.
Lie down on your side and grab a large medicine ball or roller. Bend your top leg to 90 degrees and set it on top of the ball or roller. This helps prevent lower back movement while trying to mobilize your thoracic spine from hours of computer work. Now, put your arms straight out in front of you on top of each other. Take the index finger of your top arm and try to keep it touching the ground while you draw a big circle up over your head and back behind your body. Follow your hands with your eyes so you end up getting great extension as well as rotation from your thoracic spine. Perform 10 of these on each side, or until you are able to keep that hand on the ground throughout the movement.
Grab a 15- to 20-pound dumbbell and lay on your back. Bend your knees and lift the dumbbell over your chest, keeping your arms straight. Be sure to engage your abdominals as you slowly pull the weight back behind your head, making sure your bottom ribs don’t elevate. Keep your upper traps relaxed with your elbows locked. Carefully reverse the motion, once again engaging your abs. Ten of these should loosen you right up and get you ready to smash some overhead press personal records.
Now it’s time to open up your tight hips. Set up in a push-up position and step your right foot towards your right hand. The goal is to get your foot as close to your hand as possible. From there, slowly drop into as much of a push-up as you can before your hip feels like it’s going to pop out. Return to the starting position and change sides. Perform eight reps per side for ballerina-like hip mobility.
Taking care of soft tissue restrictions as well as mobility issues will ensure that you are moving properly throughout your workout. To get your joints warmed up, this is much more efficient than simply walking on the treadmill for five minutes. That being said, you can be a champ and do both. Your body will thank you at 40.