Exercises You Should Be Doing: Inchworm Complex

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Last Friday I wrote a little sumthin sumthin about my visit to the Diesel Strength facility, and how I essentially felt like a kid in a candy store training alongside my boy Jim “Smitty” Smith.

Traveling to other facilities to see what various coaches are doing with their clients and athletes, as well as using that time to simply sit back, observe, and really absorb the knowledge that others have to offer is an invaluable use of time that far too many fitness professionals don’t exploit nearly enough.

As is the case from last week, I spoke about the warm-up – albeit briefly – that Smitty took Lisa and I through that really opened up my eyes as to how “archaic” my approach to warming up has been for the past few years.

Now, not to throw myself under the bus entirely, the warm-ups that we use at Cressey Performance do serve a purpose, and are without question a step above what most trainees encounter at their local globo-gym where doing a few hamstring stretches coupled with some arm circles is considered a “warm-up.”

That’s just lame, and woefully inefficient.

I mean, the whole purpose of a warm-up is to:

1.  Help increase core temperature.

2. Help stimulate the central nervous system (CNS), and in turn better prepare you for the more dynamic nature of the training demands placed upon the body during your training session.

3.  Improve tissue quality and target those areas of the body that tend to be “problematic.”  For most reading this would entail:  weak glutes, poor ankle dorsiflexion, hips that are stiffer than a steel beam, poor thoracic mobility, atrocious pec length, overactive upper traps, and a very weak anterior core, to name a few.

4.  Improve tissue length/extensibility.

5.  Provide ample opportunity to scope out the hot chicks. Obviously.

Too, and this is something that’s been on my mind lately:  the warm-up should be fun.  I mean, when you think about it, the warm-up sets the tone for the rest of the session.  Training, for 90% of the people reading, 90% of the time, should be fun (and practical). It should be specific to your goals, of course, but it should also get you excited to the point where come 2 o’clock, all you can think about is how you’re going to make people destroy the back of their pants when you crush your deadlifts later on in the day at the gym.

There’s a time a place to put your game face on, and get after it (1RM attempts come to mind), but for all intents and purposes, if training is fun and is something you look forward to, you’re more prone to stick with it.

Raise your hand if actually look forward to warming up.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In much the same way, the warm-up should follow the same parameters as your training.  It needs to serve a purpose, and there should be some semblance of individualization involved, but concurrently, it should also be fun.

As I noted above, this is where I feel I could step up my game a bit, as I feel many of the warm-ups I program are very “robotic” in nature.

Quadruped Extensions-Rotations

High Knee Walks

Reverse Lunge with Posterolateral Reach

Scapular Wall Slides

Put your left foot in, take your left foot out, do the Hokie Pokie, and turn yourself around………blahblidy blah blah. Boooooooooooooooring.

Sure it gets the job done, but the example above can be very uninspiring and feel more like a chore – kind of like doing the laundry – than anything else.

Which is why I LOVED the warm-up that Smitty had us do a few weeks ago, which had more of a “fluid” flow to it.  Rather than do one drill for “x” number of reps, and then moving to the other, Smitty prefers to COMBINE exercises and provide a little more value for your warm-up buck.

Not only does his approach still address many of the weaknesses and imbalances that most people possess, but it also takes a bit of the monotony out of the equation.

For example, lets take a look at the Inchworm Complex:

What Is It:  I just told you what it was – the Inchworm Complex.  GOSH!

What Does It Do:  holey moley where do I begin?  This badboy works a lot of stuff:

  • Serratus activation
  • Anterior core activation
  • Hamstring length
  • Ankle dorsiflexion
  • T-Spine mobility (specifically, extension)
  • Scapular mobility
  • Chin tuckification (meaning, one should tuck their chin, and therefore maintain more of a neutral spinal position throughout).
  • And I’m sure I neglecting to name a few more benefits

As you can see, this one drill combines several exercises which helps to target a lot of stuff at once, but is also shortens the warm-up time (perfect for those in a rush).

Key Coaching Cues:  try to have as little movement as possible in the torso.  If you have to, use a wide(er) stance to maintain more of a neutral spinal position (although, a teeny tiny bit of spinal flexion isn’t the end of the world……relax!).  Also of note, I’d be reticent to use this exercise first thing in the morning when the spinal column is fully “hydrated.” Doing so many compromise the spine and cause an ouchie.

Taking it a step further, we can add another element into the mix and perform the Inchworm Complex Plus.

Here we take all the benefits from above and add in some hip flexor/adductor length, in addition to some more thoracic spine mobility.

The possibilities are endless, really.

Try them out today, and let me know what you think.

I do want to stress that it’s still important to master the basics first, and that drills like the ones above aren’t what I would advocate for people who have the movement quality of a snail.   Having said that, I really feel taking more of a “progressive” approach to warming-up is exactly the kick in the ass most people need to make it a little more palatable to do.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

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