Working in commercial gyms, I saw many weird and wonderful things, including the lack of a warm-up or taking it too far and turning it into a circus sideshow. Guys would literally come off the street, slap a few plates on the bar and get to benching.
Others would go through convoluted foam rolling, stretching, and circus trick warm-up that would last 30 minutes before touching a weight. Both of these extremes, IMO, are wrong, but what would I know?
I know I should mind my business, but I’m naturally a sticky nose. Sorry, not sorry.
My warm-ups for clients (and myself) used to be long and pointless and took away energy for what they were intended for. To be better, bigger, faster, and stronger. So, this piece is an atonement for all my mistakes in the past.
Not having a warm-up is wrong, and a warm-up that goes for too long is wrong, but there is a happy medium. Call it the Goldilocks porridge principle.
Not too cold, not too hot, just right. With me so far?
Here I’ll get into what you should warm up before smacking into the weights and some great warm-up exercises you should be doing with programming suggestions.
Why You Should Warm-Up
When I’m ready to train, I want to get through the warm-up as fast as possible to get to the good stuff. You know, biceps curls in front of the mirror. The warm-up needs to be short, focused, and get your body for the work ahead.
Kind of like foreplay. 😊
Your warm-up should help you move in a greater range of motion with reduced muscle stiffness. This will improve your performance and mental headspace by ensuring your body can handle what you’re about to do to it. Here are a few other vital benefits of warming up
Whether doing cardio or strength training, you’re putting much stress on your joints and muscles. This is best to prepare the body because a warm-up will better prepare your joints and muscles to absorb force. A warm muscle is less likely to strain or tear than a cold muscle.
Better Range Of Motion
Warm-ups ensure you are warming up muscles, ligaments, and tendons and for improved joint mobility so you can move as efficiently as possible when you’re getting after it. You’ll be better positioned to strengthen all parts of the movement, leading to better muscle-building potential.
Improved Mental Headspace
Many of my clients come before or after work, and even though they are coming to train, the last thing on their minds is lifting heavy ass weights. The warm-up transitions from the outside world to my weird and wonderful exercise world. Because the mind and body need to be ready to train, plus, it provides you feedback on your readiness state.
For example, If you cannot raise your arms above your head with discomfort, overhead presses will be out for the day.
6 Exercises To Make The Warm-Up Great Again
With so many warm-up exercises to choose from, how do you (and I) narrow it down? One, the movement that gives you the best bang for your buck, and two, they are my favorites. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
The deadbug involves you lying on your back and doing an opposite arm and leg movement while keeping your spine on the ground. At its core, this exercise is an anti-extension exercise but it. But it trains the anterior and posterior core, the obliques, and the hips.
How to do it:
Lie on your back, take your feet off the ground, and bend the knee at 90 degrees.
Then extend your arms towards the roof with your hands directly above your shoulders.
Flatten your lower back and maintain this the whole time.
Then take a deep breath through the nose, extend your left arm behind you and your right leg in front of you simultaneously, and breathe out.
Return to the starting position, take a deep breath, and repeat on the other side.
Sets & Reps: One to two sets of 6 to 8 reps on both sides.
Passive Leg Lowering
The passive leg lowering stretches your hamstrings while the opposite leg goes into flexion and extension while your core remains stable. Making your hips and legs work separately improves hip mobility because it trains hip separation. This is where one hip flexes while the other extends. This is the basis of everyday locomotion and prepares your hamstrings for squatting and deadlifting.
How to do it:
Face up and hook a resistance band around the middle of one foot.
Straighten both legs and hold the band in each hand.
Pull the band down enough to feel an active stretch in your hamstrings.
Lower your free leg to the ground slowly while keeping your banded leg stable.
Lower your foot until it hovers above the floor while maintaining a neutral, low back.
Return the leg to starting position, repeat for reps and switch sides.
Sets & Reps: One to two sets of 10 reps on both sides.
The glute bridge, or a hip extension, seems so simple that it shouldn’t work, but news flash, it does. It targets the glutes while actively stretching the hip flexors to help improve hip mobility, which is needed for lots of stuff. This exercise is easily progressed by performing it one leg at a time or adding pauses in the extended position for a time under tension.
How to do it:
Lie face up on the floor, with your feet flat on the ground.
Engage your core and flatten your lower back on the floor.
Drive your feet through the floor to lift the hips and lower back off the floor.
Contract the glutes and hamstrings at the end of the rep.
Slowly lower to the floor and reset and repeat.
Sets & Reps: One to two sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Shin box Rotation
The shin box rotation is an excellent warm-up exercise because it trains both hip internal and external rotation in one movement. Lack of hip internal rotation is one of the causes of hip impingements, so it’s helpful to pay attention to this. This exercise is easily regressed or progressed depending on your level of strength and mobility.
How to do it:
Sit on the floor and have your front leg at a 90-degree angle and your back leg at a 90-degree angle. It looks like the number 4.
Have your hands behind you on the floor with an upright upper body. If you’re up for a challenge, do this without your hands.
Slowly reverse the hip position until the internally rotated hip is externally rotated and the external hp is internally rotated.
Alternate for even reps on both sides.
Sets & Reps: One set of 10 reps on each side.
The hand walkout is a catch-all warm-up exercise that trains your shoulders, core, and upper back while providing an active stretch to your hamstring and calves. This is three exercises in one: the inchworm, push-up, and downward dog, making it an excellent all-purpose warm-up exercise.
How to do it:
Hinge down and put your fingers on the ground. If you cannot touch the ground, bend your knees.
Take small steps forward with your hands until you reach the push-up position.
Perform a push-up (if you can), and as you rise from the push-up, get yourself in the downward dog position (watch the video).
Then walk your hands back to your toes and repeat for reps.
Sets & Reps: One to two sets of six to eight reps.
Walking Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach
Yes, it is a mouthful, but this would be it if you chose one exercise out of the six. This exercise has many movements, so you’re warming up your entire body. Walking Spiderman with hip lift and overhead reach is an excellent warm-up exercise that trains the inner thighs, hip mobility, hamstring flexibility, hip flexor strength, and shoulder mobility.
How to do it
Stride into a forward lunge and bring both hands inside your forward leg.
Then try straightening both legs while your hands are on the ground.
Come back down, and get into a deep lunge.
Then rotate the arm furthest away from the forward leg with your eyes following your hand.
Return the hand to the ground, step up to the opposite side, and reset and repeat.
Sets & Reps: One to two sets of five reps on both sides
Warm-Up Programming Suggestions
Warm-ups are not meant to tire you but work up a light sweat and prepare you and the work ahead. So, keeping the reps moderate around the five to ten range works well. Spending five to 10 minutes going through a circuit of warm-up exercises will prime the muscles for the work ahead. Here is an example.
· Deadbug 6 reps on each side
· Passive Leg Lowering ten reps on each side
· Glute Bridge 10 reps
· Shin box rotation ten reps on each side
· Hand Walkout 6 reps
See, that wasn’t so hard to make the warm-up great again. You can reach me here if you need further explanation on warming up.