Warming up properly is essential for optimizing performance and preventing injuries during strength training. By following a well-designed warm-up protocol, you can prepare your body for the demands of your workout and reduce your risk of soft-tissue injuries.
A comprehensive warm-up should include several key components and take between 10-20 minutes.
The general warm-up serves to increase your heart rate and prepare your body for the rest of your warm-up. This will help to reduce your risk of injury and improve your performance during the rest of your workout.
A protocol of 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio (such as biking, rowing, or skiing) should be enough for most people.
After your general warm-up, it’s important to focus on mobility exercises to increase your range of motion and improve blood flow to the required muscles. You can use foam rollers and massage balls to apply gentle pressure for myofascial release.
During your mobility exercises, keep in mind which muscles you’ll need to target for your specific workout:
For squats: quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, or calves.
For bench press: lats, upper back, pecs, triceps, or spinal erectors.
For deadlifts: hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, or inner thigh.
Dynamic stretching helps to increase your end range of motion for each joint. Make sure to reach the end point of your joint range of motion and hold briefly for 2-5 seconds before releasing. Repeat the stretch 10-30 times depending on the exercise.
Avoid holding the stretch for too long (10-30+ seconds) as static stretching before a workout can decrease your performance.
Here are some dynamic stretching exercises you can try:
For squats and deadlifts: downward dog to inchworm, world’s greatest stretch, leg swings, knee hug to hamstring stretch, leg cradle to lateral lunge.
For bench press: banded pull aparts, dowel pullover, cat to cows, couch stretch.
Muscle activation involves firing up your prime and stabilizing muscles to engage the correct muscles during your workout. Choose 1-2 muscle activation exercises for each of the main movements of the day and perform 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps with light to medium resistance.
Use a controlled tempo and strict form to activate the correct muscles. Here are some muscle activation exercises to try:
For squats: glute maximus, glute medius, core (band squats, clamshells, monster walks).
For bench press: rotator cuff, upper back, rear delt, serratus anterior (band pull aparts, scapula pushup, wall slides).
For deadlifts: trunk, glute medius, glutes (banded good mornings, monster walks, glute bridges).
It’s still crucial to warm up with the barbell for your specific movements. This will help ingrain correct movement patterns and allow you to feel any key issues that may need to be addressed.
Make sure to move the warm-up weights in the exact same way you would with heavier weights. Try the following warm-up sets:
10 reps with the empty bar or bodyweight.
5-8 reps with 30% of your working weight.
5-8 reps increasing weight by 15-20% until you reach 80% of your working weight.
Incorporating a proper warm-up into your strength training routine will help you perform