You're Doing It Wrong: The Warm-Up

Are you warming up wrong? STACK Expert Stan Dutton provides a two-part program that will enhance your performance and help you avoid injury.

Warming up

Bob walks into the gym sipping his highly caffeinated pre-workout drink and hops on the treadmill to warm up. Bob doesn't necessarily like doing this; he finds it  monotonous, but he knows it's good for him. At least that's what he's heard from his lifting partner's girlfriend's brother, who looks really jacked on Instagram.

Then he does several Arm Circles with 5-pound plates, a rotator cuff exercise. Finally, he hops on the Bench Press to celebrate his favorite day of the week, Monday: International Chest Day.

We've all been there—stuck with a lame warm-up that's not only boring but ineffective. Although Bob's time on the treadmill did make him warm, did it prepare him for his workout? Did he increase his mobility and power? Did he reduce his chances of getting injured? No, no and no.

Here's what Bob should have done:

Part 1: Foam rolling/soft tissue work

Here's everything you need to know about soft tissue work: You need to do it! There you go. Any questions? No? OK, let's continue. Although it's uncomfortable, it will enhance your performance—in some cases dramatically—by increasing your mobility, improving important movement patterns and decreasing your chances of getting injured.

Here are the most important areas to focus on:

  • Calves. Your ankles provide the foundation for your body. If they are immobile, your knees, hips, back, and even your shoulders will compensate and pay the price.
  • IT Bands. Yes, this one hurts. But Illiotibial Band Syndrome hurts much more. Go slowly and roll from your knee to your hip.
  • Glutes. I'll give you a hint: if your IT bands are tight, so are your glutes. It is essential to release gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius muscles, especially before a lower-body training session. If your glutes don't fire correctly, your lower back will compensate, greatly increasing your chance of injury.
  • Hip flexors/quads. Everyone sits down too much, whether in school, in the office, driving, watching TV, or reading this article. This excessive sitting down causes shortening of our hip flexors, and can, once again, lead to our lower back doing more work than necessary.
  • Adductors. Everyone will look at you. Trust me.
  • Thoracic spine. Fun fact: everyone needs to work this area. Not only does it feel great, but it does great things for you. Sitting down for hours per day wreaks havoc on your spine. If you don't have adequate T-spine activation, your shoulders will pay the price.
  • Chest. Sitting down is evil. Most of us are stuck in a position where our chest is much too tight, leading to neck and shoulder issues.
  • Shoulder girdle. Everything we've done leads to this. If your ankles, hips, and back are immobile, expect it to show up in your shoulders.

These are essential. Give each a minimum of one minute of work, two minutes for tighter muscles.

Now let's get to the fun stuff: the dynamic warm-up. You want to get your heart rate up, improve your mobility, activate the muscles you'll be using during your workout and look really cool.

Part 2: The dynamic warm-up

  • Walking Knee Grabs: x 8/leg
  • Toy Soldiers: x 8/leg
  • Side Shuffle: 10 yards x 4
  • Lunge with Rotation: x 8/side
  • 4-Point Squat: x 5
  • Quadraped Rotation: x 10/side
  • Wall Slides: x 10
  • Bear Crawl: forward 10 yards and backward 10 yards
  • Inchworms: 10 yards

Yes, this pre-workout warm-up focuses on your hips, and yes, you should do this before an upper-body session. Increase your hip mobility and increase your potential to be awesome.

I know what you're thinking: "How will I have time to blast my pecs? This warm-up is like twenty minutes long!"

My response is simple: DO NOT QUESTION MY AUTHORITY!

Just kidding.

This warm-up may be time-consuming, but I ask you this: why wouldn't you want increased performance?—e.g., you'll be able to blast your pecs better. And why wouldn't you want to reduce your chance of injury?—e.g., you'll be able to blast your pecs for the rest of your life.

We're all hardwired for instant gratification. We want to be jacked and tan, and we want it now. But be smart. Do a thorough warm-up, take your time, and take your game to the next level.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock