The biggest mistake any weightlifter can make is having an ineffective warm-up routine like only doing cardio, or some static stretches, or even worse... Not warm-up at all! 😱
We're here to break it to you, this is not the proper way to warm-up before hitting the weights. A proper warm-up will get your muscles, respiratory system, and even your Central Nervous System ready for your workout! A 10 minute walk, jog, or cycling session is not going to fully prepare you to lift heavy weights. But it's okay if you didn't know that, we all learn as we go - What's important is that you know that now.
Every weightlifter should have a 10 minute warm-up routine that will prep the body to feel loose and ready to move through the full range of motion for your workout. These few minutes of warming up are a defining factor on whether you're going to crush your workout and get results - Or not. We'll tell you why it's so important and give you a few pointers on how to create a warm-up routine that will lead you to success and to more gains, less injuries!
Why warming up before lifting is important
Think about it, most people have sedentary jobs and spend most of their day sitting - In the office (or at home) and while commuting. If this is you, your joints and muscles are not getting much movement, honestly they're mostly unused. So if you head to the gym right after a long day at work, you might think you're warmed up and ready to go.. But you're not! This goes for any time of the day - Especially in the mornings, after not moving for 6+ hours while you're asleep. Doesn't matter the time, or day, warming up is the crucial first step for any and every workout.
Here's what could happen if you workout without warming up before training...
- Weights will feel heavier
- Poor coordination
- Muscles and joints are too tight and cold which can result in a strain or more serious injuries
Not only is there a possibility of injury, but you're not going to workout to your fullest potential! All those hours you're putting in are just going to get you nowhere. That is why warm-ups are so, so important!
The purpose of a warm-up is to prep your body for the training it's about to do. It helps oil up your joints, increase muscle blood flow, and activate key muscle groups that you'll be working out. That way you're able to lift heavy, target the right muscles for gains, and hopefully, prevent injuries. Plus, it can even minimize muscle soreness!
How to warm-up effectively
There's one thing we need to make clear... Stretching is not warming up! But it can be included in a warm-up routine. There are two common forms of stretching: dynamic stretching and static stretching.
Static - This type of stretching does not involve movement. It just involves isolating one muscle group at a time and holding a position for a few seconds. They are the common stretches that most people know like toe touches, standing hamstrings stretch, and other yoga poses.
Dynamic - This type of stretching involves movement. The exercises take the body through the full range of motion that mimics similar movements that you will go through in your workout. A few examples of dynamic stretches are: leg swings, bodyweight squats, hip rotations, push ups.
So which one is the best? Well there's been a lot of debate surrounding these two methods of stretching. At first, static was the most recommended and widely used form of stretching. Then studies showed that it's actually not effective at preventing injuries. But even more recent studies suggest that incorporating both static and dynamic stretching into a full warm-up routine is better for performance and injury prevention.  Never use only static stretching as your only method to warm-up (it's okay for cool downs), it will be doing more harm than good.
There is slightly more to a perfect warm-up than that. To create the perfect warm-up set for your weight training session just follow these tips...
Soft tissue release
Ok this one you don't really have to follow, but we highly suggest it, especially if you are new to strength training or have tight muscles or issues with mobility. Soft tissue release is an effective method used to reduce muscle tension, prepare the muscles for stretching, and it can even improve range of motion.
The best way to do this is by using a foam roller. So if you have one, definitely use it before doing your warm-up exercises. If you don't, look into purchasing one. It doesn't have to be expensive, the less expensive ones work just as good as the more expensive ones.
How foam rolling is done:
Identify which of your muscles are tight - Typically it's the lower body area. Then just apply pressure on that area and roll it back and forth for 60 seconds. Make sure to hold pressure on the more tender areas, go very slow, and go against the grain of the muscle.
Keep your stretches (mostly) dynamic
A dynamic warm up is typically the best for warming up before weightlifting because it has your body move through the full range of motion to really prep those joints and muscles for the heavy weights you'll be lifting. The movement involved in these types of exercises also help raise your body temperature and heart rate - Prepping your muscles and warming you up at the same time. Plus these types of exercises can help you perform better by activating your central nervous system (primes your muscles) and improving blood circulation.
Here are a few dynamic exercises:
- Forward and side leg swings
- Glute bridges
- High kicks
- Hip extensions
- Twisting reverse lunge
- Push ups
There are so many more, the key is to pick 3-4 that go through the full range of motion of exercises you'll be doing that day.
You certainly can do a full dynamic warm-up, but if you feel that your muscles are more tight than usual then combine 1-3 static stretches before starting your dynamic exercises. Static stretches are okay, as long as you're not doing just that. So try to keep your warm-up to mostly dynamic moves and very few static stretches.
Mimic similar movements to your main workout at a lower intensity
This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with dynamic exercises. Dynamic exercises are meant to get you moving through the full range of motion, but take it a step further by mimicking the exercises you will be doing at a lower intensity. For example, simply doing bodyweight squats before adding weights. Doing bicep curls or rows with a long resistance band before doing them with free weights. Adding a resistance band to glute bridges to prepare for heavy hip thrusts. Those are just a few examples, but you get the idea.
So after you're done with dynamic exercises, think of the main key lifts you'll be doing that day and perform that at low intensity. By doing this, you are preparing and warming up your muscles even more.
Don't work too hard or long
A warm-up is exactly as it sounds - It's designed to warm your body and muscles up for a killer workout. So although you want to be moving and loosening up your muscles, you shouldn't be working too hard. The key is to keep your heart rate slightly elevated by doing low intensity exercises. Also, you shouldn't be warming up for more than 10 minutes. You're supposed to be warmed up, not burnt out. So keep it simple, effective, and short.
Now you have the information you need to create an effective warm-up - So you can start working harder and smarter! 💪
Just remember, before hitting the weights to...
- Foam roll your tight muscles (if you can!)
- Do static stretches before dynamic exercises, but keep it mostly dynamic.
- Pick 3-4 full-body dynamic exercises.
- Mimic similar movements to your key lifts, but at lower intensity.
- Keep it short and not too difficult.