So, it’s that day of the week we all dread, leg day! You’ve got some heavy squats or leg press to do, or maybe you’ve got a tough lower body HIIT session, either way an appropriate warm up is essential for injury prevention and to enhance performance.
What exercises should you be doing before going straight into heavy compound lifts or a high intensity lower body class? Well, first off we want to start with some light cardio, 5-10 minutes using the lower body cardio machine of your choice, e.g. treadmill/cycle/elliptical. This will increase blood flow to the targeted lower body muscles.
Next, we want a few ‘activation’ exercises. What does that even mean? We want to ‘switch on’ those targeted muscles we were talking about. Now this is somewhat of a misleading term and I think if not explained properly it is an incorrect term as our muscles are always ‘switched on’, if they weren’t we wouldn’t be able to move. Our brain sends electrical signals through nerves to activate muscles fibres. This allows our muscles to contract and movement to occur. So we always have a base level of electrical activity to our muscles fibres. In physiology there is something called the size principle, as we increase load we recruit more and larger motor units, so more muscles fibres are activated for when we have to lift something heavy.
Some Physios may argue, therefore, that the best and only warm up needed prior to something like heavy squats would be to start with lighter squats, then progressively add weight until you get close to your working set weight. However, skipping other pre-activation exercises may be appropriate for some, but for those who may have imbalances this could lead to further issues. For example someone with a weak glute medius on one side may drop at the hip and subsequently cause the knee to cave inwards as the load increases and that muscle fatigues.
Obviously if you haven’t been to a Physiotherapist before then you may be unaware of any sort of muscle imbalance or technique issues you may be facing. We see the aftermath of these types of cases when an injury has already occurred. However, a pre-assessment can be a good idea to prevent this – you don’t have to be in pain to see your Physiotherapist.
Call Bend + Mend to book an appointment with one of our physios so together we can work on preventing an injury before it occurs.
Read on to Part 2 to see what exercises I would suggest prior to a lower body session.