Years ago, I used to hit the gym and immediately start lifting.
Not only didn’t I do a proper warm-up, I didn’t even consider any mobility or flexibility work as important. I just wanted to grind.
It took a few years to get the message. The most important part of a workout is the warm-up!
Because it will help keep you injury-free.
You may think you don’t have time for a proper warm-up, but being laid off due to a pulled muscle, sprain or other injury takes far more time away from your training.
You’ll also be stronger — especially if you focus on dynamic stretches and mobility (as opposed to deep, isometric stretches). Mobility gets the blood circulating into the muscles, lubricates the joints, and primes the central nervous system for more work.
So how do you properly warm-up for training?
Start with some simple joint rotations.
Joint mobility is a great way to bridge the gap between static resting and training. Rotating your joints throughout their full range of motion produces synovial fluid as the joints articulate, which helps ‘lubricate’ them. In addition, the muscles and nervous system will be warmed up for more work.
Think of the following:
- Head circles
- Shoulder circles
- Arm circles
- Elbow and wrist circles
- Hip circles or torso rotations
- Knee circles
- Ankle or foot circles
Start with smaller rotations and increase the range if possible with every few repetitions.
Watch the video below and practice to keep your joints health and ready for action.
From there, you can so a brief cardio warmup, just to get the blood flowing even more. Anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes will suffice, depending on your level of fitness. This part of the warm-up could consist of:
- Jump rope
- Light run
- Jogging in place
- Marching with high knees
- Light shadow boxing
- Rowing machine, light pace
Once you are warmed up with some joint rotations and light cardio, you’re ready to move onto some dynamic or light stretches. The goal here is not deep flexibility work. You want to loosen the muscles up, not over-extend them. Deep stretches can actually make you weaker, so they’re not advised pre-workout.
Think of this part as mobility work. And I’ll say it once more — keep the stretches light.
Here are some examples of some moves I like to do before any training session:
Wrist Mobility Work:
Fire Hydrants & Get On The Horse:
Squat to Lunge:
Shoulder Extension & Biceps Stretch:
Shoulder Capsule Stretch:
Up-Dog to Child Pose:
Stiff Bear (Calf Stretch):
Butterfly to Beginner Straddle:
Of course, you can modify your warm-up based on the type of training you are doing on a particular day. Have a heavy lower-body day? Then concentrate more on hip and ground mobility. Are you training mostly upper body? Then work on thoracic extension, and dynamic shoulder stretches.
Finally, I may add some sports-specific movements that mimic what I’m training that day. For example, if I’m training a barbell back squat, I may do a series of repetitions of the back squat with an empty bar. If I’m working with kettlebells, I’ll do some light swings and ballistic movements before training with a heavier bell.
Remember than pain should not be a factor. Discomfort may be a sign that you are trying to hard, or have a potential injury. Listen to your body and respect it!
Best in strength,
PS: If you are interested in some basic strength training that gets results in minimal time, check out last week’s blog post on Becoming Strong.