Want to avoid injury, lift more weights and increase your skill WITHOUT adding extra time to your training sessions? Then it’s time to maximize your warmup and rethink how you prep for a lifting session or metabolic conditioning work.
When it comes to warmups, there’s two camps that describe 99 percent of athletes. Those who walk into the gym, grab a barbell and start training. And those who spend 30 minutes foam rolling and mobilizing every part of their body, going through an exhaustive process to prime their body. (We’ve gone over why foam rolling is largely a waste of your time, especially before a workout.)
But the middle ground is where the real magic happens. By fine-tuning your warmup you can bypass others athletes, ensure longevity and actually enjoy prepping for that day’s training.
“The goal with a warmup is to increase blood flow to muscles and connective tissues,” said former CrossFit Games athlete Marcus Filly.
“It’s also a fantastic time to work on quality movement so you can avoid those sessions where you last rep feels better than your first. You don’t want to wonder if you maximized your training that day or not.”
Filly, whose functional bodybuilding movement has gotten immensely popular, kept getting the same feedback on his Awaken Training Series. People loved the warmups. Gone were the five minutes of cardio and a few general stretches. Instead, the warmups were devoted to isometrics, honoring quality movement and skill work.
People didn’t slog through them. They looked forward to them. The concept of supersetting movements, adding skills and using the mind-muscle connection is invigorating, fun and immensely useful before getting into your training.
Yes, you need to get your heart rate up and blood flowing as you get primed to train. But if you aren’t working in some single leg, single arm work and waking up your core and hip flexors from sitting in a desk all day you’re leaving gains on the table.
WARM UP KEYS
-This isn’t the best time to passively stretch or foam roll. If you need to do a few dynamic movements before hopping in, try bird dogs, high knees, duck walks, side shuffles, ball slams or lateral step ups.
-Pay attention to how your body feels. After you do a few empty barbells sets, if your hips are still cranky or your shoulder feels tight, now is the time to spot fix before you get to heavy weights. Some days you’re going to need a little extra TLC. Listening to what your body has going on any given day will go a long way in injury prevention.
-If you “have” to do some active mobility, after your heart rate is up is the best time to do it. Try to add it in as part of a cluster, which Dr. Quinn Henoch explains here.
-Don’t be afraid to push it. No, you shouldn’t want to go home and lay down after doing a few rounds of one of the below warmups. But your warmups should have you feeling like you did something. It’s imperative to raise your body’s core temperature and areas like the glutes and core can take much more volume than you may think.
Here are five sample warmups adapted from Filly’s training. These are a daily part of his Awaken Training Series and, due to popular demand, are now available as a separate ebook. Try them out depending on your workout that day. Remember to move with purpose and see how you feel!
Carry, crawl and crunch before an upper-body dominant workout.
A1. Half Kneeling Single Arm Arnold Press; 3111 Tempo; 6-8/arm; rest 60sec x 3
A2. Dual Kettlebell Bent Over Row; 2111 Tempo; 6-8 reps; rest 60sec x 3
A3. Slide Board Body Saw; 1010; 8-10reps; rest 60sec x 3 (if you don’t have sliders, this can be done as shown below with rings)
EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) x 12 minutes:
Repeat this circuit four times. Great for time-strapped athletes to wakeup the core, glutes, back and hips.
Hip Speed + Scaps + Jumping Mechanics
You’re warming up hip extension with the jumps and getting that overhead primed. This is a perfect option for before Olympic lifting or any kind of explosive training that requires full hip extension.
10 Dumbbell Side Plank Rotations/side
4 Complexes (Cross Body Dumbbell Muscle Snatch + Single Arm Dumbbell Push Jerk) per arm
5 Depth Over Box Jumps (drop from 6″ plates)
Glutes respond to higher volume so don’t be afraid if you feel the burn with this one. Great before any squat, deadlift or lower-body dominant session.
3 Sets: 10 Quadruped Hip Extensions/leg
rest 15 seconds
10 Single Leg Band Resisted Glute Bridge/leg
rest 15 seconds
15 Banded Hip Thrusts
rest 90 seconds
Full Body and Brain
A kettlebell flow and backwards jump rope ensures your brain is awake for training, along with head to toe movement preparation. Start light, increase weight if you can. This can also be an awesome active recovery circuit. Remember, you are moving for quality!
3 Sets – Not For Time
5 Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch Right side
5 KB Push Press, Right side
2 Kettlebell Windmill, Right side (after last Push Press)
2 Turkish Get Ups, Right (do these top down – so you end at the top of the second rep, standing up)
25 Backward Jump Rope Single Unders
Repeat the circuit on the left side. That’s one set.