We may all have varying types of fitness goals and different focuses to our training sessions, but there are definitely a set of guidelines that can be commonly followed.
1. Myofascial Release, Dynamic Stretching, Muscle Activation/Movement Prep (Warm-Up)
A warm up has a number of purposes that a lot of us are familiar with – increase the heart rate, get blood flowing to the the working muscles, take the joints through the range of motion that will be worked, etc. There are also specific types of things you should do in the warm up.
a) Myofascial Release
This refers to things such as a lacrosse ball, foam roller, even a barbell. Anything that can be used to loosen up the fascia and help increase blood flow to the joints.
a) Dynamic Stretching
This means you’re taking a joint/joints through a full range of motion actively, NOT holding a static stretch. If you hold a stretch too long, you are lengthening that muscle too much, which is not what you want before you’re supposed to be using it.
Examples of dynamic stretches: walking lunges, cat/cow, and twisting side planks.
b) Muscle Activation/Movement Prep
It is a very useful (I’d say crucial) step to activate the working muscles prior to training. The main one never to skip is the glute muscles. Many of us have underactive glutes that don’t fire when we want them to in certain exercises. An example of an activation for the glutes would be kick-backs with a resistance band.
Movement prep refers to going through the same types of movements you’ll be done in your workout, but at a lighter load and focusing on range of motion and mind-muscle connection. An example is doing bodyweight squats slowly prior to lifting heavier.
2. Strength Training
I’m still surprised that many people do their cardio prior to doing strength training with weights. Why don’t we want this? Because strength training is anaerobic; so the fuel needed for this type of activity is glycogen, not oxygen. Once you’ve depleted a lot of the glycogen, you can go and burn fat (yay!) during your cardio.
You don’t have to do cardio every workout (you don’t have to do strength training every workout either), but if you did do both, you’d do cardio at the end (see above).
I do want to add that you shouldn’t be doing like an hour of each. Stick with workouts that are shorter in duration and more intense with less breaks – intensity is the biggest factor in those gains!
4. Stretching/Cool down
This is where you can hold a stretch. Hold each stretch for the muscles worked for 15-30 seconds, or longer if that’s what you need. Partner assisted stretching is great too! If you’re feeling very tight, you can do additional foam rolling now as well.
Depending on the individual, any of these components can be focused on more than others, even from workout to workout. The main thing is to stay safe, practice good form, work hard and have fun!