A solid pre-workout routine begins long before you step into gym shorts or break a sweat. And like everything else, sloppy prep translates to sloppy execution. That can lead to uninspired training sessions or injury, both of which inhibit strength and muscle gains, or weight loss. So to help you craft a sound pre-training regimen, we asked Patrick Solano CSCS, strength and conditioning specialist at the UFC Gym in Torrance, California for his pre-workout necessities.
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1. Eat for Fuel
The timing in which you eat a pre-workout meal or snack depends on your digestive tendencies. In general, munching on something an hour or so before exercise should provide you with an adequate amount of energy; however, there’s no hard-and-fast rule.
“Some people get an upset stomach when they eat too close to a workout,” Solano says. “I’m one of those people who can eat right before or even while I train and be fine, so it changes from person to person.”
Regardless of the timing, make sure carbs and protein are on the menu. “Toast with peanut butter is a good option because it contains carbs, fat, and protein,” he explains. “Fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges are complex carbohydrates, which are a more sustainable form of energy. A protein shake or bar also works.”
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2. Drink 20 oz. of Water
Hydration requirements hinge on variables like age, gender, weight, height, and the intensity of your workouts. As a guideline, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that active people drink 20 ounces of water prior to exercise.
What you don’t want to do is start chugging water immediately before you train. The countless pee breaks will be a disruption and you can actually end up peeing out more than you retain.
The importance of hydration can’t be understated. For one, you’ll be more comfortable — unless you enjoy training while battle things like muscle cramps and dizziness; plus, studies show that adequately hydrated athletes perform at higher levels than dehydrated athletes.
3. Supp Up
Pre-workout supplements aren’t a necessity, but they can heighten focus and provide an energy boost.
“Most pre-workout supps are similar in that they contain caffeine and amino acids that’ll help your veins and arteries dilate to increase blood flow,” he explains. “Take it 30-minutes prior to your workout so by the time you’re in the gym you’re at the peak of its effects.”
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4. Review Your Workout Itinerary
Whether you’re using an app like the M&F Trainer or going old school with a pad and paper, knowing what’s expected in terms of reps, sets, weights, and rest periods removes guesswork and can help make your workout more efficient.
“It’s a way to prepare mentally,’ Solano says. “If the exercises you’re doing and the loads you’re planning to move are all programmed in, all you need to do is execute.”
It’s also a way to keep yourself honest. When you’re bushed and only on set 6 of 10, it’s easier to omit a set or two when you’re not looking at stats.
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5. Warm-Up Part 1: Aerobic
“A well-designed warm-up increases muscle temperature, core temp, and blood flow. It should also allow your tendons to get warm as well,” says Solano. “This will help the muscles work at optimum strength and power.”
In this section of the warm-up you’re looking for a little bit of perspiration; the objective isn’t to get completely drenched. Spend five minutes working at a low-to-moderate level on a treadmill, stationary bike, or rowing machine.
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6. Warm-Up Part 2: Foam Roll
While using a foam roller can be a painful and quasi-unpleasant experience for some people — the exception would be for masochists, obviously — the pros of using one outweighs the cons.
“Muscles are fibers that are held together with tendons and perimysium, which is a sheath of tissues that holds together muscle fibers,” Solano says. “When we train, that tissue can become bunched up. Think of it like a snag in a zipper. Using a foam roller can break the bunched areas up so the muscle contracts more efficiently.”
Spend up to a minute per area ironing out the kinks of the muscles you’ll be utilizing during your workout.
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7. Warm-Up Part 3: Dynamic
Now it’s time to zero in on functionality and ensure that what you’ll be using during specific lifts will be ready for action.
“’Dynamic’ means warming up through movement,” he reveals. “Go through the muscle groups you’re going to use and perform compound bodyweight or lightweight movements that execute the full range of motion. This will help make sure areas like the shoulders, knees, and wrists will be warm and ready.”
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8. Make a Playlist
Some eggheads recently studied more than 6.7 million fitness playlists and complied “the ultimate workout playlist” that featured artists like Katy Perry, Rizzle Kicks, Daft Punk, and Little Mix. We suspect your playlist might contain more power chords, pick slides, and songs that induce head banging
“Psychologically, listening to your ‘workout’ song or playlist might pump you up,” he says. “It’ll also block out the dumb music that’s playing in the gym.”
Other studies have shown that tunes that fall between 120-140 beats per minute (BPM) were the best for exercise.
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