If you’ve ever stumbled through a warm-up without giving it much thought, you’re leaving a lot of performance and strength potential on the table. Not only is your warm-up meant to prepare your body for the workout ahead, but it should also address stability issues and weak links in the kinetic chain that might lead to injury down the road.
As such, piecing together a dynamic warm-up that is just as focused and intentional as your workout is vital for long-term success. Still not convinced? According to strength coach and physical therapist Dr. John Rusin, “Injury prevention must precede performance if there’s any chance of achieving both,” and that’s exactly what a purposeful warm-up sets out to do.
Here’s how to structure your warm-up routine so that it enhances your workout and enables you to train like a boss.
Know the training focus ahead of time.
If you’re following a training program, you’re already steps ahead those who walk into a gym and wing it. Look at the day’s program and pinpoint its focus. Is it a full-body workout? Upper body? Lower body? Is there a lot of overhead pressing? Explosive movements? Establishing the focus of the workout directs you toward the movement and mobility drills that will benefit you most in the warm-up. So instead of doing passive leg swings on a day you’re expected to clean and jerk, you can spend the bulk of your warm-up on shoulder mobility and stability drills to ensure the shoulder complex is ready for the powerful, explosive nature of the jerk.
Address your weaknesses first.
No one improves their performance, technique, or physique by only focusing on their strengths, so why would it be any different for your warm-up? The weakest link in the kinetic chain will not only hold back your progress, but it can lead to injury down the road. To prevent this, identify your weakest points—be it in a lift, movement, or joint—and include 1-2 drills that address those areas first.
For example, if you struggle to keep your lats engaged during the deadlift, you can include a resistance band drill into your warm-up to activate those muscles before your big lift. Exercises like the banded chest expansion or a single-arm pulldown with a band are simple to execute, and act as both activation and corrective movements in one.
Tackle stability and mobility together.
Mobility and stability go together like George and Amal Clooney. They simply work better when they’re together. Unfortunately, most women spend the bulk of their warm-up on mobility and flexibility while neglecting stability.
Hypermobile women in particular must prioritize stability in the hips, ankles, and shoulders because of their natural tendency to “hang out” in their ligaments. Even if you’re not hypermobile, a woman’s lifestyle choices like wearing high heels and the natural Q-angle of the hips can also affect stability and mobility around the ankles, knees, and hips.
Incorporating drills like lateral band walks, clamshells, and ankle movements, to name a few, tackles these issues head on without neglecting one over the other.
Your warm-up is your workout.
Never forget that your warm-up is a part of your training session and should be treated with the same respect and focus as your workout. To structure your own intelligent warm-up, start by writing 5-8 drills or exercises you’ll perform based on the criteria above. Add in additional foam rolling or stretches you enjoy at the end, but keep the warm-up under ten minutes so you can get on with your workout.
Below is a sample warm-up routine from my free warm-up guide e-book: The Warm-up Guide for optimal results.
SAMPLE WARM-UP FOR SQUAT/LOWER BODY DAY
EQUIPMENT: Light to medium resistance band
DURATION: 5 minutes
x5 each direction
x5 each direction
Banded air squats
Lunge with T-spine rotation
x5-6 per side
bridge with leg lifts
x3 per side