My first few years in the gym I would be so cranked up on pre-workout and oozing testosterone that I could walk into the weight room and start cranking out sets with authority. No warm up, no stretching, just my dumb “meatheadness” and bulldog mentality.
Fast forward to today and I don’t touch a weight without a fairly thorough dynamic warm up. Part of that is I’m 32 now and can’t meathead my way through workouts anymore, but more importantly I’m a much smarter lifter than I was in high-school and my 20’s.
I was costing myself a ton of gains by not getting my body properly fired up before training. There are two main reasons for this:
- Your muscles are not warm and elastic when you first start lifting, which hinders performance and mobility
- It takes a while for your central nervous system (CNS) to fire properly and activate your motor neurons at peak performance
Translation is that you don’t perform optimally until partially through your workout, meaning the first exercises (which are usually the most important) you are hitting are probably getting neglected or not performed to their maximum potential.
I’ll take another example from a very recent experience of mine. I had been experiencing pain in my lower back after squats and deadlifts. I diagnosed the problem as underactive glutes. So the other day when I was scheduled to squat, I expanded my dynamic warm up to target my glutes and get them firing in full force before I started squatting.
I had one of the best squat days I’ve had in a while and finished the training session pain free.
You can probably take an example out of your own training if you don’t do a dynamic warm up. Think about your performance in the first exercise you do and compare that to some of the things you do 20-30 minutes into your training. I bet you are much more focused, your muscles have stopped being sluggish and are firing on all cylinders, and you are cranking out sets much more efficiently than your first couple of the day.
Do not jeopardize your gains or perform sets sub-optimally because you don’t want to take the time to properly warm up. Every set matters…
Not to mention the injury risk you pose to yourself by going full Hulk smash the first 5 minutes you enter the gym…
There are two components to a proper dynamic warm up.
#1: Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is a must before a training session to break up inflamed tissue, promote blood flow, and boost performance.
I usually hit my quads, hamstrings, glutes, IT band, adductors, and any trouble spots in my upper body.
You only need to foam roll for a few minutes. I don’t advise rolling a certain area for more than “10 rolls” because too much foam rolling can actually irritate muscle tissue rather than benefit it.
#2: Dynamic Stretching
I don’t really advocate static stretching in a warm up until after I hit some more dynamic movements. Forcing cold muscles to stretch for long durations of time when they aren’t elastic isn’t optimal.
Dynamic stretches that I promote include bodyweight squats and lunges, squat jumps and other jump variations (broad jumps and small box jumps are good options), skipping, jogging, and animal walks (bear crawls and partner walks are awesome). RDL’s with only the bar are great to hit your hamstrings as well.
I also do a series of resistance band stretches (overhand and underhand pull-aparts, and disclocators).
Dynamic stretching is an easy, low-impact way to get your CNS firing, warm up your muscles, and tune up your mobility prior to lifting.
** Now only after I have done some dynamic stretching, I will incorporate some static stretching into the mix, specifically to target my hips and glutes. **
Sample Primal Warm-Up
This entire dynamic warm up should only take about 10-15 minutes to complete.
- Foam Roll
- Band Pull-Apart Circuit (10 each movement)
- Walking lunges: 10/side
- Bodyweight Squats: 10
- Skipping: 10/side
- Standing broad jump: 8
- Single-leg broad jump: 6/leg
- Jump squats: 10
After the foam rolling, you could do several rounds of the other exercises to get your body primed for some heavy lifting. The dynamic warm up should be up-tempo with little to no rest in between exercises and rounds.