Tag Archives: warm up

The Importance of a Dynamic Warm Up

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:

  1. Your muscles are not warm and elastic when you first start lifting, which hinders performance and mobility
  2. 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 came across this from a recent study on warm ups. Note the difference between jump performance when no warm up was performed versus a general and dynamic warm up was completed. In this case, “general” means aerobic activity (light jogging, jump rope, etc.). If you want the full study, you can find it under this title: Effect of Various Warm-Up Protocols on Jump Performance in College Football Players, by Pagaduan, Pojskić, Užičanin and Babajic, in Journal of Human Kinetics, 2012.

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.

The result?

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…

hulk-smash1

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).

band pull apart
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.

— Tank

3 Simple Ways to Add to Your Training Volume

One of the biggest factors in making gains in the gym is your training volume. With all of the troubleshooting you can do with your training programs, sometimes the recipe for success is simply doing more work.

training volume

You must incorporate enough volume in your training to produce a training effect, and the more experienced you are as a lifter, the more training volume you likely need.

For some set and rep guidelines, check out some of my past articles:

How Many Sets Should I Do Per Training Session?

What is the Best Rep Range For Building Muscle?

But expanding on those, what are some simple ways to increase your training volume to help induce hypertrophy gains?

#1 Drop Sets

This technique is popular among bodybuilders, but strength competitors and athletes can get a lot out of drop sets as well.

I tend to stay away from drop sets on my major lifts (with the exception of squats from time to time), but I employ drop sets frequently on my assistance lifts (especially direct arm work). The idea here is that for your last set, you reduce the resistance by 30% from your heaviest set and crank out as many reps as possible.

Drop sets are best used on lifts that have a low risk for technical error like rope-pushdowns and other tricep movements, curl variations, recline rows (and some other row variations like cable rows), hamstring curls, and other isolation movements. You can employ drop sets on compound lifts like bench press and squats, but they also produce the greatest injury risk, so you must maintain strict form and train smart.

Drop sets will only add a minute or two to your total training time but they add a significant amount of volume to your training and pump a ton of blood into your muscles shuttling vital nutrients.

However, use drop sets strategically and avoid using them on the same movements or muscles week in and week out.

#2 Load-Up Your Warm Ups

I’ve mentioned this before as a way to incorporate more bodyweight training and bring up weaknesses, but your warm-up is also a way to add more training volume.

For your warm-up sets on your main lifts, or even some of your assistance work, use higher reps than normal. Your overall max numbers on your top end sets may suffer a little, but that’s the price you pay if more volume is a solution to making more gains. After a few weeks, your body will adjust anyway so your strength loss will only be temporary.

This also accentuates another point I make with a lot of lifters. Instead of looking at your progress from a set to set basis, start viewing the bigger picture of total training volume. An extra 10-15 reps during your warm-up sets will likely add a lot more to your total work output (total pounds lifted) even if it means you sacrifice a few reps on your higher-end sets.

Jamie Eason

#3 Grease the Groove

I picked up this term through a mentor of mine, world class strength coach Zach Even-Esh.

It’s essentially active recovery, but with a more judicious approach. In between training sessions on scheduled off-days, you can use grease the groove to throw a bit more volume into your overall weekly workload. Keep in mind however that grease the groove training is meant to be short-duration (20-30 minutes) and low-impact.

For my own training, I keep a fairly strict schedule with Monday and Thursdays being upper-body days, and Tuesday and Fridays being lower-body days. Wednesdays and the weekend are my “off-days” but Wednesday is where I will typically get a grease the groove session in.

Since I emphasize training Primal style with heavy compound lifts, I don’t do much direct bicep work and sometimes my bodyweight work (outside of warm-ups) takes a backseat to barbell and kettlebell training. Wednesday’s grease the groove session then becomes my avenue for curl variations, push-up and pull-up training, and any other work that I may be neglecting.

You must be conscious of what movements you are doing on these days and the intensity in which you train, which is why I stress grease the groove being low-impact. Otherwise you jeopardize your recovery times from your main lifting sessions and the extra work you are getting ends up being more detrimental than beneficial.

— Tank