Why your warm-up isn’t warming you up, or at least isn’t preparing you for the upcoming training session. So why am I dedicating an entire article to warming up? I mean, you come in grab an open bike or treadmill and check Facebook and Instagram until the time says 5:00 minutes (unless you got so caught up in it that you went for 10.) Then you feel like you’re ready to go to sleep, not crush the weights, sprint fast or whatever type of training you do.
Simply warming up on a piece of cardio equipment is not preparing you for your upcoming training, let alone making you better. The proper warm-up is going to give you a more broad movement profile, develop/increase mobility and stability, increase dynamic flexibility and contractility of your musculature, groove fundamental movement patterns and prime your central nervous system (CNS) to train hard.
This month I was fortunate enough to be able to learn from the best in the business, Jim Smith (owner of Diesel Strength and Conditioning) and Joe DeFranco (owner of DeFranco’s Training Systems), while I studied to obtain my Certified Physical Preparation Coach certification. As I had previously incorporated Self Myofascial Release (SMR) and mobility into my warm-up, I was still missing some key components. This article will help you understand what a proper warm-up should look like and how to plan it based on your training.
At the completion of your warm-up you should be pumped and ready to crush the training that awaits you, not ready for a nap. Your warm-up should focus on increase core temperature, improve neuroregulation (SMR), activating muscle groups you are about to train or are inhibited, include dynamic flexibility and mobility drills and finish off with something to stimulate your CNS.
To kick it off, generally full body SMR is a good option. This includes foam rolling (aim for 30-60 seconds per muscle group) and utilizing tools such as a lacrosse ball. Be sure to maintain proper deep breathing to ensure you are not creating more tension in the fascia when your goal is to reduce it. Even if you are only benching or training upper body, you should roll your lower body because it will aid in recovery from your previous workout and the bench press is a full body movement if you perform it properly. Maintain constant movement and blend the rolling (IE: IT band to quads to adductors) smoothly to keep our warm-up efficient and increase our core temperature. Brace your core and breathe over the brace to maintain proper position (neutral spine) and double this as a core workout (think planks.)
Moving right into mobility and activation drills, this should increase your core temperature, improve mobility/stability (based on the joint) and specifically prepare the muscles you are about to train. Think of “greasing the groove.” An example of this I use following SMR is moving right into striders/mountain climbers or rollouts with v-sits since I am already on the ground and can move right into these positions quickly. Following these you can come right up into bodyweight or Cossack squats or goblet squats for a lower body workout. If you’re training upper body, move into and inchworm to Hindu push-up to push up plus. Notice these movements all “flow” and do not require you to change positions. By moving quickly from movement to movement we are again focusing on increasing the core temperature and keeping the warm-up efficient.
Following the above, incorporate some band work whether you are doing upper or lower body. As a society we are constantly performing more push than pull and in a forward lean position causing tight pectorals/upper traps and weak lower traps and deep vertebral flexors, referred to as Janda’s Upper Cross Syndrome . The band work I perform is band pull a parts, band dislocates, and band face pulls. I sometimes work up to sets of 50, but we want quality over quantity so a good start is doing 10 of each in a tri-set fashion and repeating 3-5 times.
To round off a properly designed warm-up and really get ready to train we NEED TO STIMULATE THE CNS. Yes, I just yelled that because that is the kind of attitude we are looking for here. This is where you should add a jump, sprint or throw. Add some 10 yard explosive skips, sprints, box jumps, med ball throws, kettle bell swings or plyometric push-ups. Think med ball chest passes or push-ups for an upper body day, or sprints and box jumps for a lower body day, remember we are greasing the groove.
All of these movements should be blended together to look like one single component with fluid movement through the exercises, not a stop and go and having to change positions between each exercise. For a good start and to get an idea of what this looks like, check out Joe DeFranco’s Limber 11.
Each of my training clients and groups whether online or in person gets a specific warm-up based on their mobility/stability issues and the workout at hand and I would recommend you benefit yourself in the same way. This is just a tiny sample of the hundreds of movements out there for physical preparation but I hope it can benefit you.
Here is an example of my 3 top picks for improved mobility with a band
Written by Luke Koval
B.S. degree in Kinesiology from The Pennsylvania State University
Graduate degree in Wellness and Human Performance