…stretching should go at the end of your workout
As a young dancer, I recall most dance classes began with a warm up that included stretching. We prepared our bodies for dance this way for years, and I do believe many instructors still lead their students through stretches at the beginning of a class.
Over the years, dancers and athletes have been studied, leading to an evolution in the methods used to progress performance, changing the way we think about warming up. In my adult dancer life, I learned that stretching as a warm up is no way to prepare my body for movement. In fact, stretching should go at the end of my workout!
now what do i do?
A good warm up is designed to prepare your body for the work you will be doing in class. For instance, jogging for 20mins is not a good warm up for pole fitness, or lifting weights, or even a dance class. It may be good to begin with a few seconds of jogging in place to get your heart going, but adding cardio to your warm up is just a part of the routine.
A warm up preparing my body for splits and back bends would be different from a warm up that would prepare me for doing tricks on the pole. For the splits and back bends warm up, I would focus more on range of motion while the pole warmup would focus on muscle activation and include exercises that act as a movement rehearsal for moves we may try on the pole. Once I set the intention for my class, the contents of my warm up become easy to create.
Here’s a video of a 25min warm up that prepared me for splits and back bends to give you an idea of the flow. Follow along with the video and let me know how you liked the warm up, and then use the outline listed below to create a warm up that works for you.
how to warm up!
In general, I like to begin with breathing and a gentle introduction to the range of motion of my joints. I work my way from head and neck, to shoulders, chest, hips, knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, feet, and hands. Twisting, bending, and drawing circles with my body while incorporating breath to power the movement is a great way to stay mindful during warm up.
Next I work through larger movements to work my cardiovascular system, activating large muscles. My favorite go-to is squats, and you can do them in all different ways. Lunges are another great one, paying attention to engaging the muscles of the legs and glutes.
I almost always include some yoga in my warmup, like Downward Dog, Plank, Cat and Cow Pose, and Childs Pose. Finally, I end my warm up with about 3mins of ab exercises. Don’t forget to warm up your feet and toes, too! There’s nothing like getting a cramp in your foot while you are upside down on the pole!
In general, I like my warm ups to last 20mins, but in a pinch you can do 10mins of warming up — but never skip the warm up! If you don’t get your body moving before you do the work, you body may not be ready when you need it to be, and that is when injuries happen. Also, a good warm up should not wear you out before class has even started, so save that conditioning for later in class.
Save the passive stretching for the absolute end of your workout. Stretching your muscles actually makes them exhausted for a few hours after you have stretched them, so it makes more sense to stretch when you are done using your body. I like to hold and breathe in my passive stretches for no longer than 2mins each stretch.
How do you prepare your body for your workout? Let’s share tips so we can keep evolving and growing as artists and instructors 🙂