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It’s a good idea to warm-up prior to any physical activity. Not only should the arborist’s work day begin with a warm-up, but each and every exercise session should begin with one as well. Literally, the warm-up is designed to increase the body’s temperature and reduce the occurrence of injury and post-exercise muscle soreness.

Fitness for Arborists: The Warm-up

By John Amtmann and Brian Schwarzkoph


December 6 was a slow day for us in town. It was cold, the high was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and on slow days we often go into the woods to collect firewood. It had been a couple of weeks since we had loaded wood; we had a nice pile of 12-foot sections, from standing dead that we had cut up the last time, just waiting to get loaded. My partner, Chris Lawkmer, was itching to get loaded up so we could get back to town and end with an early day. When we load up firewood, we fill the back of two flat-beds and one 10-foot trailer. “You gas up the saws, and I’ll hustle to get these 12-footers loaded up,” Lawkmer said.


Though I wanted to turn the lad loose, I thought this would be a good opportunity to teach him about the importance of warming-up prior to more intense work.


“Slow down partner, let’s ease into it,” I recommended.


“Aww, come on Johnny,” he said. “I’ll have the trailer loaded up in less than two hours if you just let me jump into it!”


“I’ll let you jump right into it after we warm-up for a bit. It’s a good idea to warm-up…”


It’s a good idea to warm-up prior to any physical activity. Not only should the arborist’s work day begin with a warm-up, but each and every exercise session should begin with one as well. Literally, the warm-up is designed to increase the body’s temperature and reduce the occurrence of injury and post-exercise muscle soreness. The American College of Sports Medicine’s statement on the warm-up suggests the following: a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardiovascular (aerobic) and muscular endurance activity…that allows the body to adjust to the demands placed on it during the exercise session (ACSM, pg. 153).


This general suggestion allows for quite a bit of creativity when considering exactly what to do during your warm-up, so you could consider different approaches.


Prior to beginning a strength training session, a simple but complete warm-up could include:

5 minutes on a stationary bike at a comfortable pace
25 free squats
1 set of 15 dumbbell lateral raises (light weight)
1 set of 15 lat pull down (light weight)
1 set of 15 dumbbell shrug (light weight)

During this warm-up your heart rate should gradually rise: it’s higher than you’re resting heart rate but not quite as high is it would be during the more intense portion of the exercise session. Some people don’t like to/or can’t stop and measure heart rate after the warm-up. A simple way to determine if your body is ready to for more intense activity is to simply feel your forehead. If it’s covered with a thin film of sweat then the warm-up has been effective in increasing body temperature. I use this technique quite often when leading training sessions with groups of younger (under age 30) folks and, not only does it help me in determining if they are ready for more intense exercise, but it’s an opportunity to teach about the importance of the warm-up.


Another point to keep in mind regarding the warm-up is to be efficient in how you approach the training session. For example, if you are planning on a 30-minute cardio session, as well as a strength training session, then it would be more time-efficient to perform the cardio session first, using the 30 minute cardio session as a way of warming up the body prior to the strength training session.


There’s nothing wrong with breaking up your cardio into different segments as well. For example, instead of 30 minutes at a lower intensity, you could break up the cardio session into the following:

15 minute warm-up and cardio
Strength training
15 minute cardio — higher intensity

Or, you could split the cardio session into more parts – following each cardio session with a segment of the planned strength session. This example splits the cardio and strength sessions into three parts:

10 minute warm-up and cardio followed by upper body strength training
10 minute cardio (more intense) followed by core (abs/low back) training
10 minute cardio (more intense) followed by lower body strength training

The first cardio session of each example would actually begin with 5 minutes of lower intensity cardio — this is the warm-up.


 


Prior to beginning the work day


The physical work the arborist begins his/her day should be preceded by a warm-up. Climbers should focus on callisthenic exercises for the wrists, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees and ankles before climbing into the first tree of the day. The tree often determines the physical intensity. That is, some trees are more physically demanding; they are more difficult to access and navigate than others, and climbing the tree as part of the warm-up, or without warming-up, may be just too intense to start with; so a proper warm-up is vital for the climber.


Groundmen could benefit from the same approach, but are likely more able to regulate their intensity than the climber. That is, if a groundman is beginning the day by loading logs or dragging brush, then they can simply choose lighter loads to begin with to allow the body the time it needs to warm-up.


The warm-up is an essential part of the exercise session that increases body temperature don’t make the mistake of stretching as your sole warm-up prior to exercise. This is exactly what we do [ital>not<ITAL] want to do. Stretching alone does not muscle, therefore should be done end of exercise session or work day because it at this time the muscle is warm and more pliable it will stretch easier and there will be a lower risk of injuring the muscle or joints. In the next article, we will discuss the cool-down period.


 


“…How ‘bout we start this process by cutting those l2-footers into a bunch of 6-footers, and we’ll load them first. It’ll be a smart way to start,” I said.


“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he replied.


 


John Amtmann is a professor of Applied Health Science program at Montana Tech in Butte, Mont. He works as an arborist during the summer, and can be reached via e-mail at jamtmann@mtech.edu. Quarterback for the Montana Tech Orediggers, Brian Schwarzkoph is an Applied Health Science student at Montana Tech, and is a tree worker in his spare time. He can be reached via e-mail at BWSchwarzkoph@mtech.edu.


 


Reference:


American College of Sports Medicine. (2010). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription 8th edition. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

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