Preparing for Battle - the Warm up

warm-up with kettlebells. Steve Cotter

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”

-Coach John Wooden, perhaps the most illustrious of all American sports coaches. The American sage Benjamin Franklin said the same thing almost 200 years before. Who am I to argue with such wise, successful pioneers?

When it comes to kettlebell training, an important part of the preparation is the warm-up.

For obvious reasons, such as raising core temperature, increasing circulation and activating the nervous system, the warm-up is essential for “warming” the body.

It is also important for reducing likelihood of injuries (straight out of bed into all-out sprints anyone?). In addition, there are psychological factors, such as reducing anxiety, eliminating distractions, and increasing concentration, which are part of a correct preparation “warm-up” before you begin with the kettlebells. You must prepare your body and your mind together.

“There is more than one way to skin the cat.” “All roads lead to Rome.” Such sayings indicate that for most goals, there is usually many approaches, all of which may work. A warm-up should evolve into a flow in which you intuitively select the particular movements that you want to, or more importantly, should be doing.

For example, if you have an old shoulder injury or a bum knee, it is a good idea to spend extra time preparing those areas for the rigors of the kettlebell training to immediately follow.

Over time, you will be able to mix and match different types of mobility, aerobic, agility, flexibility  and breathing exercises into your personal routine.

To start, it helps to have a general framework to develop from.

A productive warm-up for kettlebell training is to start with what is called a “pulse raiser”, which is a gradually progressive aerobic component for 3 to 5 minutes. These are the sorts of activities that will raise your heart rate and breathing rate and begin to warm the body from the inside out, what is called your “core temperature”.

This can be any sort of gentle warm up activity, such as an easy jog, skipping rope, bodyweight movements like squats or jumps, or any number of agility movements involving skipping, shuffling, hopping, crawling, rolling and so on. 3 to 5 minutes and not too intense. Remember you are just “preparing” for the hard work ahead.

After your pulse raiser, you will begin to rotate all the major joints of the body. This is typically referred to as joint mobility and may involve any number of dynamic rotational movements to increase circulation around the joint. Think of this phase as working out all the kinks in your body. If one area is extra tight, spend more time circling, rolling, and rotating that area. The most important joints to attend to will be the hips, shoulders, neck, ankles, knees, elbows and especially the spine. Learn an assortment of therapeutic joint mobility movements to cover all the major joints of the body. You will spend additional time (reps) in the areas that give you problems or are more tight than others.

After the pulse raiser and joint mobility, you have prepared the body for the more intense kettlebell training. Keep in mind always posture and breathing and to concentrate on what you are doing.

You will feel focused, warm, and ready for battle!