Warm-up’s are one of the most common frustrations I hear from people. “What do I do?!” “I feel like this is taking forever” “I have been foam rolling but it doesn’t help,” etc. The goal of this blog is to help you take back control of your warm-ups. Now, if you want the short version, click HERE to get our complimentary “Maximizing Your Warm-Up Routine” guide. As a physical therapist, focusing on performance based physical therapy, I decided to kick things up a notch.
If you want to get a little deeper dive, then continue on!
So, before we get into how or what, we need to first cover why the heck we warm-up in the first place. It is “common” knowledge that you are supposed to warm-up, but why? Do you know or do you blindly follow what everyone says? Warming up has a lot of safety measures, but the one we will focus on the most is the injury prevention side. Warming up your muscles, tendon’s, and ligaments can actually help reduce risk of injury AND improve performance. When you warm-up, this allows these areas to handle the stress of working out better than just starting the workout. Think about it, when something is warm and you stretch, chances are it stretches better, where as if you stretch something that is cold, it either doesn’t move or breaks. That isn’t to say that these areas will break, but more so can potentially cause injury OR lead to decreases in performance.
If you look at the American Heart Association and ACSM for the importance of a warm-up, they state that warm-ups allow you to increase your core and muscle temperature, increase neural function, increase blood flow to muscles and tendons, increase oxygen uptake to transport to your muscles which helps to essentially deliver oxygen to these areas (1).
YOUR WARM-UP PURPOSE:
Obviously we just talked about the purpose of warm-ups, however in this section we are going to dive specifically into talking about why YOU warm-up. Is it because you lack mobility? Is it because you want to reduce risk of injury?
I like to classify people into two different categories. 1. You already have all the mobility you need to complete your lifts. 2. You DON’T already have all the mobility you need to complete your lifts.
If you have all the mobility you need, you can spend a little less time on your warm-up. If you don’t have all of the mobility you need, this might mean you spend a few extra minutes on your mobility prior to the rest of your warm-up.
If you have the mobility you need, your body likely goes through the ranges of motion it needs for lifts. As you continue to do these, your body will be like, “oh hey. Okay. I need to make sure I can maintain this, since it appears as though we are going to frequently use this.” This goes back to the “use it or lose it” principle with our bodies. I always say our bodies are inherently lazy, so if we don’t need to maintain something, our body isn’t going to use extra energy just to keep something we don’t use.
This is also important when looking at achieving all the mobility you need. Once you do get the mobility you need, you likely will have to keep working in those ranges of motion in order to maintain it. There will be some mobility prep work you have to do before hand, but it is SUPER IMPORTANT to then USE the mobility that you just achieved. So hit mobility work first, then do active exercises to help strengthen the muscles in that new range.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR WARM-UP BE?
It should be simple, yet specific. It shouldn’t take a large portion of your workout or consist of purely foam rolling, massage gun, and/or voodoo floss.
If you already have all the mobility you need, you should start doing lightly loaded movements of the actual exercise you’re going to do.Be sure to emphasize full range here too, and spend some extra time at the ends of motion to make sure they are prepped and ready to go.
Some examples for you to do:
If you have squats, I like to hold the bar or light weight down in the bottom of the squat, perform 1.5 reps, and utilize pauses or tempo’s. These all help to get the muscles ready to perform, in a safe manner.
If you have snatches, I like to utilize either tempo or segmented snatches with light weight or an empty bar. I also utilize overhead squats to get ready for the overhead position. Another useful warm up for overhead position is drop snatches.
I also like to include some pre-activation exercises. This allows us to take a deep dive into the smaller muscles such as the rotator cuff, core, or small muscles around the hip.
If you don’t already have all the mobility you need, you should start by doing gentle mobility work. These are specific to you, but often times I see people with ankle mobility restrictions, which can not only affect the ankles, but knees, hips, back, or heck even shoulders.
Just as such, we can also have discrepancies in your squats simply because we don’t have the range in our shoulder. All this to say, be critical of where you are spending your time.
Simply put, work on your mobility. Then do pre-activation exercises and lightly loaded movement from the aforementioned.
I like to perform actual movements to warm-up instead of using the “latest and greatest” tools, such as massage guns, foam rollers, voodoo floss, etc. If you look at the research by Chaudhry et al (2008), we see that approximately 1870 pounds is required to change tissue structure even 1%. So, these things won’t CHANGE tissue length. Another study by Murray et al (2016) suggests that there is no significant tissue temperature change, meaning that it doesn’t necessarily increase blood flow to the area. .
Additionally, research by Hayashi et al (2011) demonstrates that foam rollers do work for remodeling ligaments.. BUT on rats. This means that the force equivalent to this for a human, would require thousands of pounds, which I don’t know what mobility tools you’re using but I doubt it’s a steam roller.
- Get the blood pumping to prep your muscles
- Mobilize any areas where you have motion limitations
- Do some pre-activation exercises to the smaller, stabilizing muscles
- Work on controlled, tempo, and segmented portions of your lift, emphasizing the end ranges of motion
- Be quick and simple, yet effective
- Get to your lift in no more than 15 minute
So you may be asking, how the heck do I make this quick, simple, yet effective.. while getting it done in 15 minutes?
I like to use this opportunity to learn from our friends at CrossFit. Crossfit WODs are notorious for getting a ton of work done in a short amount of time. They do that by accumulation sets, “every minute on the minute (EMOM), As many rounds/reps as possible (AMRAP), and Tabata’s. I took this principle and applied it to warm-ups and found the results to be quite incredible. Getting a ton of work done, in half the time. (I have found that WODtimer is the best for performing these workouts in an efficient manner.)
So what would something like this look like?
Down below, we go through 7 examples of warm-ups that are simple, efficient, and gets a lot of bang for your buck. However, an important note here is that you should do any mobility work you need prior to starting these warm-ups. This will allow you to get the extra mobility and then work the muscles in that range in order to warm them up through a full range of motion.
As you will see in the examples listed below, there will be the AMRAP or timed work, this SHOULD NOT be an excuse to compromise form. Form is important here and going through that full range of motion. The AMRAP or timed work just creates some urgency so you can get through the warm-up and onto your lift as quickly as possible.
Please note, that these ARE scalable. Simply do less weight, less reps, or time if you are unable to complete the workout as listed, with good form.
10 min AMRAP:
40 yards KB overhead carry (approx.)
10 total overhead plate lunges
10 yards forward and backwards bear crawl
8 1 and 1/4 goblet squat
Tabata (20 seconds on:10 seconds off) for 4 rounds
Overhead barbell squat
Weighted Windmills to the RIGHT
Weighted windmills to the LEFT
EMOM for 12 mins:
Minute 1: 10 Turkish sit ups
Minute 2: KB dual front rack carry
Minute 3: KB dual Overhead lunges (complete for 30 seconds total then rest remaining time, repeat until time is up)
Tabata (20 seconds on: 10 seconds off) 8 minutes
EMOM for 10 mins:
Minute 1: Z-press
Minute 2: 1 and 1/4 goblet squats
10 min AMRAP:
10 gorilla row RIGHT
10 gorilla row LEFT
10 hollow rocks
10 arrested superman pulses
10 up to down dogs
Accumulate 50 inverted rows and each time you take a break, perform 16 total lunges then continue with inverted row (if easy, add some reps or do it for time)
THANK YOU so much for taking an interest in your injury prevention and working on improving your warm-ups. I hope you found the complimentary and condensed material useful, as well as this blog. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us either in the contact box, or via email/social media, both of which you can find below.
As always, if you need help getting past an injury, send us a message to get set up for your complimentary consultation and be sure to mention this blog or the guide.
Additionally, if you find interest in these kinds of warm-ups, please reach out for more information regarding these. Mention this and get another week free of efficient and effective warm-ups.
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Hayashi K, Ozaki N, Kawakita K, Involvement of NGF in the rat model of persistent muscle pain associated with taut band.J Pain. 2011;12:1059–68.
Chaudhry H., Schleip R., Ji Z., Three-dimensional mathematical model for deformation of human fasciae in manual therapy.Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2008;108(8):379–390
American Heart Association. “Warm up, Cool Down.” Www.heart.org, American Heart Association, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/warm-up-cool-down.
Murray, Andrew M, et al. “SIXTY Seconds of Foam ROLLING Does Not Affect Functional Flexibility or Change Muscle Temperature in Adolescent ATHLETES.” International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, Sports Physical Therapy Section, Oct. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5046970/.