Do you remember the last time you entered the gym? There were likely a lot of people on the track or spin bikes. They likely stepped on them right from the locker room to “warm-up”. Few static stretches after that and they felt ready to lift. Does this sound true? How should a good strength training warm-up routine look? Read further to get some answers.

Purpose of warming-up

If you ask people why they jump onto the track immediately from the locker room, they will probably say the reason is to lift their body temperature. Sure, that’s true. A treadmill will lift your body temperature to get you ready to workout.

Now ask yourself: What is strength training in its most basic form? It is a dynamic change of two processes: contracting and lengthening of the muscles. Joints are there to secure the right range of motion (ROM) so that the right movement can be done. This is much more than lifting your body temperature.

How a good warm-up starts

Imagine a good strength training warm-up as a question of supply and demand. What are the demands for strength training and what shall I do to satisfy those demands? We mentioned contracting and lengthening of the muscles and joints ROM. First, we will take care of our joints ROM. The starting point for that is releasing some of the tight places we have in our muscles. In most cases, they are found in the shoulder or hip regions.

You release muscles and muscle fasciae by putting pressure on them by rolling with equipment such as foam roller or lacrosse ball. In some cases, you can use an empty barbell or kettlebell to roll muscles. Another way to release tight muscles is to apply static pressure to the tight place and to contract-release the opposite muscle. Those actions should be done quickly and take no more than 3-4 minutes total.

Building a range of motion and stretching the muscles

Next, you will take care of your joints ROM. You secure that by including mobility workouts in your warm-ups. Start with segregating exercises for shoulders, back, hips, hamstrings, and ankles. Later, you can learn complex mobility routines but for that you need to build a decent level of ROM and flexibility.

Good examples of beginner mobility exercises are kettlebell halos for shoulders, cat-dog position and thoracic spine extension for you back, frog stance and kneeling hip stretch for your hips and ankles, and a good morning exercise for your hamstrings.

Warm-up stretching

Again, the supply and the demand story. We said that strength training is a dynamic change of two processes: contracting and lengthening of the muscles. So, prepare for it in an adequate way.

Include dynamic flexibility exercises in your strength training warm-up routines to lower the chances of injury.

Different variations of lunges, kicks, and swings are some of the ways to ensure that dynamic contract-release processes.

Activating muscles

In the end, it is time to activate your muscles for real work. You can do that with some warm-up bodyweight exercises, or with some equipment such as elastic bands, Pilates balls, unstable surfaces, and others. Activate the “forgotten” regions such as shoulder rotators, deep core muscles, and glute region muscles. Try to activate them in a multidimensional way. Include pulling, pressing and rotation patterns. Do some internal and external rotation of your shoulder, crawling positions hold, elastic band core rotation exercises, lunges with a medicine ball and so on. In the end, when you start your strength workout, the first set should be done with a lower weight.

Putting it all together

When you put all of these together, you have a perfect warm-up routine that will make you sweat and also secure all of the training demands. Also, it will lower the injury risk while you train, and you will have an “optimized” feeling in your body.

Movements will go smoother and cracking in your joints will diminish. In the end, there is no reason to build endurance on a treadmill when you have a great dynamic warm-up to follow. If you do this you have all the ingredients to have a proper training, with no injuries and you soon will be as stronger as a stallion competing in the Kentucky Derby.