Movement preparation is a series of movements that prepare the body for movement by boosting heart rate, increasing blood flow to muscles, increasing core temperature and improving the function of the nervous system and joints.
Movement preparation is designed to stimulate the nervous system so that all the muscles that surround the joints are working. The end result according to Mark Verstegen in his book “Core Performance” will be a significant improvement in mobility, flexibility, and stability, on top of an increase of speed and power output by nearly 20% compared to static stretching. It does not matter if you are an athlete, a weekend warrior, a general fitness participant or recovering from an injury/surgery movement preparation should start your workout.
Static stretching is still important but only at the end of your workout program. Static stretching requires that we slow the nervous system so that the body will release the protective mechanisms and allow gradual increases in flexibility. This means holding a position for an extended period of time. We do not want to have a slow reacting nervous system when we are moving – especially with speed and/or load.
The exercises will vary (lying on your back to standing with motion) depending on your ability and what your body can tolerate. All the exercises or movements involve slow controlled continuous motion. If the movements are completed with thought, focus and control the muscles that stabilize the joints will be turned on.
SOOOOO the movements are chosen to awaken the entire system from our mostly sedentary lifestyle. Proper execution of the movements will also increase our balance and proprioception (how the body talks to itself – feedback mechanisms – about fine tuning movements) therefore enhancing the function of the body for the rest of the day.
Movement preparation should precede ANY (yes even cardio) activity that requires the body to move with speed and/or load. This includes golf, running, yard/garden work, cycling etc. as well as your regular workout – it only takes 5 -10 minutes and can make the difference between frustration and success as we establish coordination and proper movement patterns.
If you have pain it is absolutely a requirement to start your day with movement preparation. Roll out of bed, onto the floor and complete the exercises you have been given – yes if you have pain you have been given exercises that should be completed in the morning.
Movement preparation can also be utilized as a daily self evaluation tool that can increase our awareness regarding our bodies and any pain, instability, lack of mobility, and asymmetry (right vs left, front vs back) that might exist. This can increase our awareness of our posture, areas that will/might need additional attention and our preparedness to train.
Movement preparation is most important for the start of the workout routine. If you only have time for part of a workout, movement prep should be the focus as there is so much good for so little time spent.