Everyone has certain areas they should spend time on to correct and develop. For some it may be hip mobility, others core stability, or maybe it's a shoulder imbalance. One of my favorite times to attack these weaknesses is just after the normal, dynamic warm-up. If you work on these things before the tough stuff in your workout, you're less likely to skip them and your focus will still be high. So how do you go about this?
First, we need to do a regular dynamic warm-up to get things moving and raise our body temperature a bit. Here is a general example of something I may use with one of my own clients. Feel free to tweak this based on your needs, but remember the purpose of this warm-up is to get things moving and flowing (it's not static stretching):
- Hop in Place x 1 minute
- PVC Pass Trough x 10 reps
- PVC Goodmorning x 10 reps
- PVC Overhead Squat x 5 reps
- Lateral Lunge with Reach x 5 each side
- Spider-Man with Reach x 5 each side
- 90/90 Hip Opener x2-3 each side
- Hip Bridge x 10 reps
Now that we're past the most general part of the warm-up, your heart rate and body temperature should be slightly elevated. From here, we can really attack your weaknesses. Three of the most common weaknesses in athletes are weak core muscles, rounded shoulders and a weak lower back/glutes. Here's how you can destroy each of these weaknesses with just a few extra moves after your normal warm-up.
Weakness 1: Weak Core Muscles
If you are someone who knows you are lacking in the core strength department, here are some exercises to neutralize that weakness. Two to three of the following exercises for two to three sets will do the trick. Be careful not to over-fatigue yourself for your impending life, as these exercises should be more of a primer than anything else. These are very basic so you can progress as needed, but they give you a great starting point.
1) Lying Low Back Tucks 3x10
Lie flat on the ground with your heels driven to the floor. Start with a slight arch in the low back, actively pull your belly button toward the floor until your low back is flat on the ground. Try to suck your belly into the floor, pause for one second then reverse and repeat.
2) BirdDog 3x5 Each
Start in a kneeling position on all fours, chin tucked, back flat. Slowly bring your right elbow and left knee together. Once they lightly touch, extend them fully until your leg is straight out behind you and your arm is straight in front. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. The goal is to rotate the hips and torso as little as possible and go slowly, controlling your limbs the entire time.
3) Band Paloff Press 3x8 Each
Loop a band around a pole, grab the end of the band and stand so your left hip is toward the pole and your right hip is away from it. Bend your knees slightly, press the band from your chest out until your arms are straight. Don't allow the tension on the band to pull you back in toward the pole. Slowly bring your hands back in and repeat.
Weakness 2: Rounded, Forward Shoulders and Forward Head Posture
Perhaps you know your weakness lies in your posture and it's causing you a bit of pain in your upper back and neck. If that's the case, a bit of upper-body mobility and upper-back work before your lift can work wonders.
1) Front Facing Wall Slide to Lift Off 3x8
Face a wall with one foot touching the wall and the other foot back slightly. Place your forearms and palms on the wall in front of your chest, slowly start to raise your arms overhead and out slightly but make sure to keep your palms and forearms flat on the wall until they are fully extended overhead. From here pull your hands off the wall by pinching your shoulder blades together without arching the upper body back hard. Return and reverse the motion.
2) Facepull 3x12
A band, cable machine or suspension trainer all work for this one. Grab the handles, band or cable attachment with both hands in front of you with arms straight out. Pull your hands back toward your face at about chin level or so. Pause at the chin for a second or two then reverse the motion. Actively squeeze the upper back each rep and keep the weight light if using a cable machine.
3) Band Pull-Apart
Grab a band with a double overhand grip with arms straight out in front of the chest. Pull the band apart and squeeze the shoulder blades back together as tight as you can, pause at the end, then reverse the motion. Slow and controlled is key here.
Weakness 3: Weak Lower Back and Glutes
For many athletes, the lower back, glutes and hamstrings are a weak point in their physical strength. This can have a massive negative impact on athletic performance and injury prevention. The good news is we have exercises to target this issue. Be careful not to overdo it here—start with just one set of each exercise to build up the backside of your body.
1) 45-Degree Back Extension 2-3 x10-15 Reps
Set up on the machine with feet pressed into the plate and back flat, hinge at the hip while keeping the back flat. Once you reach your end range without rounding your back and squeeze the glutes tight at the top.
2) Single-Leg Reverse Hyper-Extension 2-3 x10-12 Each Side
If you have access to a true reverse hyper-extension machine, by all means use that. Keep the weight lighter and place one foot in the strap. But if you are like most young athletes you don't have access to one but we can make it work for this warm-up. For the purists out there yes, we know, its not the same but it's as close as many can get.
Head to your glute-ham developer (GHD), lay on your belly on the big pad, and grab the foot pads with your hands. Your legs should be dangling off the end of the machine. Slowly raise one leg up as high as possible until it is fully extended; you will know when you feel your glute squeeze tight. Lower and repeat. Try to only move one leg at a time.
3) Light Band Hamstring Curls 2-3 x10-12
Weak hamstrings are a pretty common problem with athletes and most humans for that matter. But don't worry, we can put in a little work to get some blood to the hammies ahead of time, hook a band around a pole and lay on your belly with one end looped around your heels. Pull your heels to your butt, keeping the hips on the ground. Reverse and repeat. Use a light band to avoid fatiguing the hamstrings too much. This is also a great one to use the day after Deadlifts or RDL's when your hamstrings are screaming at you.
Following the conclusion of your weakness-based warm-up you would move into whatever your work is for the day, whether it is conditioning, speed work or lifting.
There are a lot of different options and this style of warm-up is truly customizable to your needs and weaknesses. I also want to emphasize that if you are not used to any work before the workout actually starts, ease into this very slowly by only doing one set of each.
Photo Credit: simonkr/iStock
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