By Kim Duke, NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer
All too often, people will choose a cardio workout over strength training, when in reality, strength training workouts, if done properly, will be more beneficial to your body’s muscles, bones, metabolism and energy levels. Often times, this is because taking a walk or going on a hike does not take much prep or know how, whereas a strength training workout can be more complicated.
I have written articles on what to wear, how to breathe and the importance of an engaged core and good form. What I have not covered is how to start.
I cannot stress enough, how important a routine is to your workout, since over the years I have seen countless examples of people injuring themselves on day one at the gym just because they did not do the following:
No. 1: WARM-UP
As the name suggests, your warm up (5-10 minutes) should gradually warm your muscles and body temperature. The type of activity done in a warm-up should include major muscle groups and be completed in an order that feels natural. For example, starting with toe touches and then jumping into jumping jacks is not recommended, but marching in place and then taking the movement to a gentle jog and then a jumping jack is recommended.
No. 2: STRENGTH TRAIN LARGE MUSCLE GROUPS
Your bigger muscle groups consist of glutes, quadriceps, back, chest, and hamstrings, and your smaller muscle groups are typically your shoulders, triceps, biceps and calves. Recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine state that you should train your larger muscles before your smaller muscles.
Choosing to work your bigger muscles first has a wide variety of implications on your workout. Overall, you will be able to achieve higher intensities throughout your workout because the largest muscle groups will have a chance to activate without your body already being fatigued from smaller muscle work. The higher intensity means a greater hormonal response to exercise, according to research conducted by Arthur Weltman appearing in the “Journal of Applied Psychology.” Since your smaller muscles won’t be fatigued, you will also better be able to stabilize and control heavier weights. This will reduce the likelihood of injury because your ability to coordinate movement better.
No. 3: COOL DOWN
Why do you need a cool down? This is to reduce soreness and stiffness and fatigue. As you perform contraction after contraction during your workout, your muscles are left in a shortened state; stretching helps reset your body to a natural position and posture. It also promotes muscle tone. Cooling down is gradual and needs to only take 5 -10 minutes.
And as always, drink plenty of water while you strength train. One of the first symptoms/indicators that you are NOT hydrated is fatigue, which will cause a significant drop in athletic performance. Not staying hydrated will also make you susceptible to cramps, heat stress and heat stroke.