Exec Digital’s resident health expert Joe Giandonato tackles essential fitness questions every busy executive should know
by Joe Giandonato
Try this experiment. Take a rubber band and place it in the freezer in your workplace’s galley. Leave it in there for 30 minutes. Remove it from the freezer and start playing with it – stretch it out, aim to shoot it at your coworker, secure a stack of papers with it – that is if you can. You’ll notice that the rubber band isn’t as pliable as it was when stored in your top drawer at room temperature and will likely snap.
Muscles and the tendons blend into work similarly.
Imagine if I told you to get up from your desk and sprint across your office at top speed, as if an enraged office linebacker, Terry Tate were chasing after you, you’d likely strain or pull something during the sprint. Often times, not warming-up properly causes injury, not the exercise or movement itself.
Many people blindly assume that jumping on an exercise bike for 5 minutes and pedaling at a low intensity qualifies as a sufficient warm-up, however, a good warm up not only increases core temperature but “ensures CNS excitement”, according to Jim Smith, C.S.C.S, co-author of AMPED Warm Up. What he’s saying is that you should prime your nervous system for the impending work that lies ahead. Warm-ups should be anticipated task specific, meaning if you’re going to be squatting or pressing or pulling later in your workout, you should be mimicking those movements earlier in the workout with your bodyweight or far lighter loads.
Also, your warm-up should include movements that hone in on joint mobility, specifically for the thoracic spine, hip, and ankle, and stretching, which takes us to our next question.
Stretching exercises should target muscle groups that are sore or tight from previous workouts and contrary to common belief, should not be intense. This holds true for the rest of your warm-up work – don’t kill yourself, just get your body ready – as Smith says, prime yourself to neutrally wake up your circulatory system and get the blood flowing, and perform movements at lower intensities that you’ll be doing later in your workout -- executing them with a full range of motion and focusing on joint mobility.
Rather than getting caught up in stretching variations and terminology, there is one type of stretching that must be excluded from your warm-up at all costs:
Ballistic stretching. Ballistic stretching involves rapid repetitive bouncing at a stretch’s end range of motion, theoretically increases muscular flexibility as it extends a given joint’s range of motion. However, ballistic stretching engages the myotatic (stretch) reflex, a protective response, which limits rapid joint movement thus negating any benefits. Furthermore, forcing a joint far beyond its natural range of motion increases the chance for injury and reduces muscular force output, as many studies show.
Stretching exercises could be done throughout the day, as to increase soft tissue extensibility, which will help restore tight muscles back to their resting lengths. Tight and weak postural muscles, specifically those of the back and hip region, could afford to be stretched a bit more. Stretching following a workout has shown to aid in recovery between workouts.
Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA. More of his content can be found on joshstrength.com