5 Steps to Optimizing Joint Health & Function in the Gym: Spine Warm-up

Starting position of kneeling spinal wave
Without the appropriate stimulation and activation of our CNS, we cannot expect the movements in our body to be optimal.

People generally have a misconception about what a good warm-up should look like. Many of us understand it’s important to increase body temperature and blood flow to our working muscles, but looking a little deeper, this should be a time for you to body map. Body mapping allows you to connect with your physical body a little deeper than just sweating before a workout. When you body map, you try to pinpoint what is feeling tight, what is feeling mobile, and ultimately ask yourself, are heavy squats smart for my body today?

This is also an integral time to begin speaking to your Central Nervous System (CNS). Made up of the brain and spinal cord, the CNS is the central hub of our body where all communication of feeling and movement is mediated. It integrates all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the periphery of our body with the almighty brain and spinal cord. Without the appropriate stimulation and activation of our CNS, we cannot expect the movements in our body to be optimal.

Start your warm up by waking up and activating your spine and its surrounding tissues with these three movements.

Kneeling Spinal Wave 10 reps

Beginning in a child’s pose position, start with your arms locked out, toes flexed into the ground, and actively press the ground away. Start moving by pulling your lower back, mid-back, then upper back up towards the sky until you finish the rep in an “up-dog” position. As you transition back into your child’s pose, be sure to again articulate your spine up towards the ceiling as well as locking out your arms throughout the routine. 10 reps.

Starting/End Position: Child’s PoseStarting/End Position: Child’s Pose

Mid-Spinal Wave: spine rounded up towards skyMid-Spinal Wave: spine rounded up towards sky

Midway Point: Up-Dog positionMidway point: Up-Dog position

Modified Floor Scorpion 10 reps (5 each side)

Beginning with your stomach flat on the ground—arms and legs extended—start your motion by bending your left knee and rotating that leg, hip, then torso across your body until you are flat on your back. As you start to rotate back to your stomach, lead with your left arm, then let your torso follow the rotation back to your stomach; your trailing knee and hip will be the last portion of your body to rotate over to your starting position. Repeat with your right leg. 5 reps each side.

Beginning motion: bent knee and hip rotating across the bodyBeginning motion: bent knee and hip rotating across the body

 Middle position: one knee bent, extend opposite arm overheadMiddle position: one knee bent, extend opposite arm overhead

End motion: lead rotation back to belly with the same arm as your bent kneeEnd motion: lead rotation back to belly with the same arm as your bent knee

Twisting Mountain Climber 10 reps (5 each side)

Beginning in a high plank position, bring your right foot flat onto the ground—outside of your right arm—into a Mountain Climber. From here, slide your bent knee down towards your back leg while simultaneously rotating your spine around your bent knee into a Hip Twist. (During your Hip Twist, try and keep your back leg in full extension to help restore elasticity into your side body.) From this hip twist, allow the bent knee to slide back into a mountain climber position before you switch up legs and sides. 5 reps each side.

Starting position: Mountain ClimberStarting position: Mountain Climber

Middle position: Hip TwistMiddle position: Hip Twist

End position (right side): Mountain ClimberEnd position (right side): Mountain Climber

Spine Warm-Up is part one of the five-part series 5 Steps to Optimizing Joint Health & Function.

Part two: Movement Preparation
Part three: Intraset Active Recovery
Part four: Post-Workout Decompression
Part five: Diaphragm Breathing


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