Let's face it, warm-ups suck. They're boring. It's a mandatory part of the workout we just do because we know we have to do something.
Some of you just do a few minutes on a treadmill or bike. Then there are those who go on the foam roller and do a drawn-out 'mobility' session.
Here are some ideas for the best warmups before workouts that you can do.
I've tried many different warmup routines over the years. Often not a routine at all. I've figured out a few warmups that are quick, effective and not uber boring.
My hope is one of these ideas will inspire you to get a little more out of your warmup.
Normally I don't like extremes. The all-or-nothing when it comes to training and/or nutrition. You must do this. Or you can't do that.
With fitness there's a ton of grey area. Lots of “it depends”.
Skipping the warmup altogether is not a good strategy. Jumping right into squatting with a bar on your back after sitting hunched over a computer for 8 hours is just not a great idea.
At the other end of the spectrum I don't want the warmup to turn into a half hour of foam rolling, stretching, mobility drills into total boredom and wasting valuable training time.
So let's explore some alternatives in the middle of the two extremes. When you ask what is the best warmup I still think “it depends” but here are some of my favorites.
This is a great option for guys who train in the garage with just a barbell and squat rack.
Even at a commercial gym with lots of machines this is a great option as you can just find a space and go to work without any hassle.
Nothing complicated here. Squats, pushups, bridges, planks, bird dogs, leg swings, running in place, lunges, jumping jacks. No need to do 20 different exercises here. I like to pick 3-4 and do them in a circuit fashion with no rest then repeat the whole circuit a few more times.
Done in 5 minutes.
If you have access to a sled or prowler they are great for strength and conditioning of course, but also can be used as a warmup.
I like to put 1 plate on the sled and do some forward drags, reverse, rows, presses, side walks, and repeat going faster the next round. Do the circuit 3-4 times and you should be ready to hit your main lifts. Don't go heavy. This is about the warmup not about trying to impress anyone.
Kettlebells have gained a ton of popularity in recent years. They're even on sale at stores like Target and Walmart! I'm not on the KB bandwagon but if you have them available they are a nice tool, especially for warmups.
The movements I like with a KB are the goblet squat, 1 arm bottoms up presses, swings, (1 or 2 handed) carries overhead or suitcase style.
It helps to have different sizes but if you are limited to just one you can get creative.
Here's an example of an effective KB warmup-
Goblet squats 10-12 reps, 1 arm bottoms up press x6 per arm, swings x20 reps, overhead carries for 2 trips each arm.
If you have only one KB do the carries in the bottoms up position to increase difficulty.
Sled, Sandbag/ KB combo
Here's a fun combination if you have different equipment and like some variety.
Start with the sled and do forward and reverse drags with a light weight. Move on to the kb and do a set of goblet squats and 1 arm presses for fairly high reps (10-15) Immediately grab a sandbag and do lunges and overhead carries. For the lunges hold the sandbag in both the bear-hug and shoulder positions.
Bodyweight and DB Circuit
If you train at home and have some db's or at your gym, this is a great option with a bit of variety.
Mix in bodyweight movements like pushups, bridges, bird dogs, planks along with some db exercises like presses, lateral raises, bicep curls, rows, goblet squats.
Here's an example- bodyweight squats, bird dogs, reverse crunches, pushups, standing db presses, db curls, lateral raises, bent-over rear delt raises. Go high rep and light weight.
A few tips
Part of the warmup is activating the muscles you will be using in the workout. I always try to emphasize the middle of the body and shoulders and hips in the warmups.
For bird dogs get a nice squeeze and hold at the extended position. When doing presses overhead activate your glutes and ab muscles during the movement to further enhance the warmup.
Overhead carries are excellent at firing up the core muscles. The sled prepares the lower body well, especially the hips and also can be used for the upper body. My favorite for the shoulders is the 1 arm bottoms-up KB press. Having the bell upside down forces you to use less weight and really activate the stabilizer muscles of the shoulder region that are often underused.
There you have it. Some of my favorite warmup methods that are quick and effective and don't involve being bored out of your mind walking on a treadmill or sitting on a bike.
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