How to design a warm-up

A good program, no matter what the end goal, has to have a specific warm-up.  And that warm-up should cater to your needs and your body. Generally speaking, a warm-up does a few things:

– Warms up your body temperature

– Prepares the nervous system for activity

– Addresses weak points

– Works on something technical that you will be doing in the workout

There are a few ways you can set up your own warm-up based on what type of workout you’re doing. However, I will stress this… Do NOT skip your warm-up.  It is vital that you do a warm-up (and I don’t just mean “stretching”) before every session.  Here are a few things I make sure to include before my weight training sessions.

Mobility/Flexibility and Soft Tissue

Everybody has certain areas that are in need of mobility or soft tissue work. Typically, these areas are causing every day aches and pains or are limiting your technique during certain movements or lifts. Without getting into too much detail, especially if you are unsure of where your problem areas are, start with:

Shoulder mobility- Band shoulder dislocations
Hip mobility- Fire hydrant knee circles
Thoracic mobility- Kneeling thoracic extension

There are tons of other good mobility exercises that do fabulous things as well.  If you YouTube “hip mobility” you will find a plethora of good exercises.  The key is to find the ones that make you feel good. (One really great resource for all things mobility is Mobility WOD.)

As for soft tissue work, make a foam roller and a tennis or lacrosse ball your best friend. Start with foam rolling:

IT Band
Lats/upper back

A tennis ball or lacrosse ball works for smaller areas and areas that might be knotted up more. Start with:

Rhomboid (between the shoulder blades)
Bottom of the foot
Front delt/ pectoralis
Upper hamstring (just below the gluteal fold)

Again, there are so many spots that could be causing ailments, but this is a good place to start. My good friend Mike Robertson has a few great resources that are fabulous.

Magnificent Mobility
Inside-Out Mobility
Assess and Correct

For what it’s worth, I had Mike do a FULL assessment on me to figure out what was the issue with my lower back. Some foot lacrosse balling, some breathing exercises and some hip work has created a complete 180* turnaround.

Pre-hab/Re-hab exercises for the body part I’m training

For an upper body session, this might include rotator cuff exercises, upper back exercises, shoulder stability work, plus a few sets of the main exercise (eg, bench press) done with just the bar relatively explosively. For a lower body session, this might include glute activation, hip work, low back exercises, and again, a few sets of the main exercise (eg, squat, deadlift), done with just the bar.

Not sure what to start with? Try these:

UPPER- choose two:

Band External rotation
Draw the Sword
Scapula Push-ups
Side Lying External Rotation

LOWER- choose two:

Glute Bridges
Fire Hydrants
Dead Bug
X-Band Walks

Address the weak points

Some might think this is the same as a re-hab exercise and it could be. But here, we want to zone in on what your specific weak areas are, and make those stronger. We want to hit these areas and muscle groups before you get deep into the workout.  This will help you in the long run because ultimately, your weakest links will hold you back from advancing in the main lifts.  These should all be done with light to moderate weight. We are just looking to get some extra work in those area

UPPER- choose one:

Cable Face Pull
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
Rear Flyes
Modified Push-ups

LOWER- choose one:

Reverse Hyper
Glute Ham Raise
Back Raise
Band Leg Curls


So remember, mobility/soft tissue work, rehab/prehab exercises and a weak area that needs to be strengthened.

About Julia Ladewski

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  1. Pedro says:

    Great article on warm up design. Probably the best one I’ve read regarding warm up and this is from Oct 2012!! Please keep cranking out the quality articles

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