We know that the old-school warm-up, in which you complete a few sets of lighter work before your main sets, is not optimal. We also know that rolling around, breathing and mobilizing every joint in the body for 30 minutes doesn’t work well either. But don’t worry, this isn’t about how to warm up.
Rather, below we discuss how you can enhance your training session by adding a power pump primer circuit. This method can be tacked on to the end of your warm-up or used as a first block of exercises in your main program. By using this method, you will put up more weight during your big lifts, be more explosive with your training and reduce your chance of injury.
Power Pump Primer Circuits
To maximize the primary exercises of your training program—using as heavy a load as you can handle and being explosive on each movement without getting injured—three things need to happen before you get into your primary lifts.
1. Activate Your Core
Your core must be fired up and ready to work to keep forces from placing excess stress on your spine and hips and transferring those forces throughout your body. Two of your core’s primary jobs are to stabilize your hips and spine and transfer force throughout the body.
When your core isn’t activated and ready to produce high outputs, your performance of subsequent movements will be subpar at best. At worst, they will be compromised, which can lead to injury. To address this, you need first to fire up your core with strategic anti-movement exercises that target your core and challenge it to prevent movement in the presence of change. Because you must be able to control forces in all planes of motion to solidify optimal position and transfer of force, the exercises that are best for power pump primer circuits (PPPC) challenge you to resist movement involving more than one plane.
These exercises include Plank Rows (Renegade Rows), Plank to Push-Up, Low Box Plank Switches, Plank Walkouts and Stability Ball Stir the Pot. All of these exercises challenge stability for the hips, spine and shoulders and force you to control at least two planes of motion—the sagital (extension/flexion) and the transverse (or rotational) planes. If you can control these, you will have a solid base to be more forceful and explosive while reducing injury risk.
2. Prepare Your Stabilizing Muscles
The stabilizing muscles of your primary working joints (mainly your hips and shoulders) must be activated and ready to stabilize their associated joints. By promoting blood flow and nervous system input to the muscles that stabilize your hips and shoulders, you can execute your primary movements more precisely and with less stress on the joints. The main areas to target are the glute complex, hamstrings, the periscapular muscles such as the mid and lower traps, rhomboids, serratus anterior and the rotator cuff.
With these areas primed and ready to work, your hips, scapulae and shoulder joints will have a better chance to stay neutral and combat the forces produced by the primary movers (such as your quads on the hips and your lats on the shoulders), which keeps your joints in a proper position. When your joints are in proper, neutral position throughout a movement and an entire training session, not only will you be stronger and more powerful, but you will also reduce your risk of injury, allowing you to gain more strength and lean muscle and increase your overall performance and health.
3. Prime Your Central Nervous System
To produce strong, explosive actions in an efficient manner, your central nervous system (CNS) must be activated but not fatigued. When your central nervous system is activated, the sequencing and rate of contractions are enhanced, which once again helps you produce more force and power. More force and power results in moving more weight in a more explosive fashion, which inevitably generates greater gains in strength, athleticism and muscle mass.
The goal is to activate your CNS without fatiguing it, because when the CNS fatigues, performance drops. Performing low resistance, explosive actions such as Jumps, Bounds, Medicine Ball Throws, Plyo Push-Ups and explosive Rows for low reps will stimulate your system without producing excessive fatigue. When these three things happen before you get into your first working set of Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Bench Press, Chin-Ups, Rows, etc., your body will be primed and ready to perform high outputs of work, move better, and reduce your potential for injury.
Lower-Body Power Pump Primer Circuits
The goals for lower-body power pump primers are to activate the core, glutes, hamstrings and CNS through an explosive squat, hinge or lunge pattern, depending on the primary movement of the day.
Squat Day PPPC
- 1a. Plank Row – 2-3×8/side
- 1b. Single-Leg Hip Thrust – 2-3×10/side
- 1c. Squat Jump – 2-3×5
Deadlift Day PPPC
- 1a. Plank to Push Up – 2-3×8/side
- 1b. Cable Pull Through – 2-3×15
- 1c. Broad Jump – 2-3×5
Lunge Day PPPC
- 1a. Side Plank Switches – 2-3×8/side
- 1b. Single-Leg Stability Ball / Slideboard Leg Curls – 2-3×12/side
- 1c. Split-Squat Jump – 2-3×3/side
Upper-Body Power Pump Primer Circuits
The goals for upper-body power pump primers are to activate the core, scapular stabilizers (upper back), rotator cuff and CNS through an explosive push or pull, depending on the primary movement of the day.
Bench Day PPPC
- 1a. Plank Walkout – 2-3×6
- 1b. Band Pull Apart – 2-3×15-20
- 1c. Explosive Push-Up – 2-3×5
Row Day PPPC
- 1a. Stability Ball Stir the Pot – 2-3×8/side
- 1b. Face Pull – 2-3×15
- 1c. Explosive Cable Row – 2-3×6/side
Overhead Press Day PPPC
- 1a. Plank Overhead Reach – 2-3×8/side
- 1b. Multidirectional Band Pull Apart – 2-3×8/direction
- 1c. Medicine Vertical Throw – 2-3×6
Pull-Up Day PPPC
- 1a. Slow Bear Crawl – 2-3×15 yards
- 1b. Face Pull with External Rotation – 2-3×15
- 1c. Medicine Ball Slams – 2-3×5
When performing PPPCs, focus on the working musculature during the core and pump exercises. Make sure to rest long enough that you can perform the explosive exercise at 100% capacity. Again, the goal of PPPCs is not to fatigue the system, but to stimulate the system and prepare the body for upcoming primary lifts.
Add power pump primer circuits to your program and you will experience enhanced strength, stability and overall performance with your training sessions—but only if you want maximal results!