I am keeping this post short and to the point. You need to warm up before you train. The end.
But seriously. You need to warm up. Yeah, I know, you are all gung ho about getting right into your lifting. And I want you to get in and get out. I want you to set PR’s and work hard. So what happens if you don’t warm up before you lift? Sure, you’ll be able to squat , but how much better or heavier would you have squatted if you had taken the time to open up your hips properly or your back so you could get under the bar more easily? Or even the press.
If you had taken the time to do some extra work for your thoracic extension (soft tissue work anyone?), warmed up the shoulders properly with a few band exercises (face pulls, scapular retractions), you probably could have pressed more weight, perhaps even set a PR. Take the time to prepare your body for your session properly and watch your numbers increase. Skip the warm up and you will still get your lifting done, but I guarantee that a good warm up will lead to greater progress in the gym and on the platform.
But I have only one hour for my whole workout. So? Don’t try to make an excuse for not warming up. And please, jumping on the treadmill for 5 minutes and calling it a warm up does not count. Reading a magazine on the bike is not going to help you with your bench press. You need to make it a little more dynamic and specific than that. Too many of us suffer from the pitfalls of life (seated at our desks, staring at a computer, sitting in traffic, sitting, sitting and more sitting.) The warm up is the best time to address those shoulders, hips, pecs (You know….everything that is short and tight), build mobility and stability in the body and basically set you up for a kick ass session. So what should a good warm up include? Well, for me and my clients, a good dynamic warm always includes the following:
1. It starts with soft tissue work.
Start with some foam rolling. Get the upper back, lats, hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings. This should take you about 5 minutes total, maybe a little more depending on your needs. Don’t skip this part. After foam rolling, grab a lacrosse ball or soft ball and focus on some extra soft tissue work if you are doing more upper body work that day. Even if you are not, it may be wise to take a little time to focus on those tight areas that need attention because you can’t get to them another day.
2. It moves from the floor to standing.
I like to start with glute bridges and glute marches (glute activation) then move to clams (hip external rotation), move to our stomachs for a modified cobra or YT exercises. From there, we come up to our hands and knees for cat/camel (spinal flexion/extension), followed by hip work (either rock backs or hip circles – gaining some stability) and finish with thoracic spine rotations. We push up into a downward dog (more shoulder stability work) and may either do a few yoga push ups or plank to down dog. This takes about 3-4 minutes and in that time, we have hit the hips, the back, the glutes and the shoulders. Bam.
3. It focuses on single joint and multi-joint exercises.
Once up, we start to move a little more dynamically, moving from single joint exercises to multi-joint exercises. Exercises may include arm swings, arm circles, twists, lateral lunges, marches in place, squat stands or bodyweight squats.
4. Up until the end, the warm up continues to focus on mobility work in the joints and raising the body temperature.
We continue our warm up with more high intensity moves, moving across the floor with knee hugs, quad stretches, inchworms, lunges, leg cradles, jogs, lateral shuffles, high skips and monster walks.
Below are two videos of my warm up that I use with my clients and myself. You may notice that in the second video, I have added a few extra exercises and moved the order around a bit. Find the order that works the best for you. Due to space issues, you may not be able to do much work across the floor. Move in the space you have and try to keep it as dynamic as possible. Can’t do high skips across the floor? Do them in place or just do a vertical jump. Ultimately, you want to piece together a warm up that has a good flow and includes the most bang-for-your-buck exercises.
Our warm up takes about 8-10 minutes depending on the class or client. I may omit or add exercises based on their individual needs. But the overall warm up is the same. This makes it easy to get a good warm up in and keep the session moving so we are in and out in an hour. As far as the foam rolling goes, most of my clients get to class about 15 minutes early so they can get their foam rolling and soft tissue work in before class starts. I have them well trained. And everyone has a pretty awesome session each time. And they always feel better when the leave than when they came in. Success.