The Ultimate Warmup: Prevent Injuries, Move Like A Gazelle, And Hoist Some Serious Iron
Warming up is one of those things that should be easy, but a lot of people screw up because they go about it with no particular plan. Look around most commercial gyms and you’ll see some variation of the following: people walking for 5 minutes on the treadmill and then jumping straight into their work sets, or groups of 15-year-old bros with string bean arms tossing a 45 on each side of the bar to warm up before their big bench workout (okay maybe one of them might do a few DB external rotations too, and it’s usually more of a deadlift workout for the spotter than a bench workout for the bros) On that note, I’ve been using different variations of the following warm up before my lifts lately and I think the template is solid. It’s inspired by DeFranco’s Agile 8, and a warm up article put together by John Romaniello awhile back.
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The basic idea is to elevate body temperature, address some common trouble spots, activate the core (I find this particularly helpful on days when spinal loading will occur i.e. heavy squats) and wake up the central nervous system.
Elevate Body Temperature:
Once body temperature is elevated mobility and flexibility goals become much easier to achieve. I like jumping rope, but if you don’t have a rope (why the hell not?) then try 5 minutes of incline walking followed by one or two 400m runs at a moderate pace.
Elevate body temperature: Jump rope: 250 reps of double and single leg jumps (mixed bag, just get 250 in)
Addressing Common Trouble Spots:
Next we can take some time to prime trouble spots for work. This period will allow us to work through some common imbalances, and get a little bit of injury prevention going all while warming up the muscles that will be targeted in the upcoming workout. Office jobs and smartphones have created a host of shoulder and hip issues for many, many people, as such this portion of the warmup targets those trouble areas.
Prime “Trouble Spots” for work:
Upper Body: Scap pull ups 3×10, plate raises 3×10, Rope pull to neck 3×10, posterior capsule stretch “Self-administered PNF” 1x/side.
Lower Body: Rear foot elevated hip flexor stretch, abductor stretch, cats and dogs 3×10 seconds each, hydrants 2×10, kickback 2×10, sideways leg swing 2×10, knee drops 1×20, mountain climbers x 30.
Activate The Core:
If you build a three story house and the first and third floors are made of brick, but the second floor is made of toothpicks the building is gonna collapse, the occupants will be maimed, and your construction company will be taken to court and sued. Thankfully, we can prevent this tragedy from occurring. Moving big weight demands a full body commitment and activating the core is an area that a lot of people leave out of their warm ups. Plus a little extra midsection work will help you look better naked.
Core activation: 30 sec plank, 1×30 Dead Bugs, 1×15 Hip Ups, 1x 10 Toe Touch.
Wake-up The CNS
The more efficiently your CNS is functioning the easier it will be for you to exert force on the bar during a lift, because neuromuscular junctions and science! But seriously the faster the message to move the weight gets from your brain to your muscles, the faster that bar will move. Generating bar speed is essential for making strength gains, and in that vein so too is waking up the CNS.
CNS Wakeup: 3×5 Kneeling Jump, 3×5 Med Ball Slams
Now you’re ready to jack a little steel:
The whole thing takes about 10 to 15 minutes and involves everything necessary to get your muscles and joints ready for work especially if you are on a full body routine. After waking up your CNS you can move on to perform warm up sets for the main movement of that day’s lift.
Static stretching can be performed after your workout, I find it much easier to increase flexibility when my body temperature is up and my muscles are nice and pliable.
As always the rule of individual differences applies if you have a particular issue that needs to be addressed, substitute stretches or movements accordingly, but for most lifters this is enough to get the body ready. If you are on an upper/lower split then “trouble spot” work can be adjusted as well depending on your workout for the day.
I’m big on foam rolling as well especially for the hips, glutes, and upper back (but really it’s awesome all over). That being said it’s just not necessary to do every day and can be performed at home while you’re binge watching old Sons Of Anarchy episodes. If you must do it at the gym I’d say to fit it in right after the jump rope portion of your warm up.
If you’re really pressed for time you can incorporate some of the “trouble spot” work into your movement specific warm up. For example, if squats are your first strength move of the day then superset your hydrants, mountain climbers, etc, with squat warm up sets., move the CNS wakeup to a spot right before the first work set. It’s not an ideal option but definitely works if you need to get in and out of the gym faster.
TL:DR – Elevate body temperature, address common mobility/stability issues, activate the core, wake up the CNS, get to work!