Strength Training Warm-Up Structure
Updated: Aug 11
Boring. Tedious. Generally unwanted. The warm-up doesn’t get a lot of love from exercise enthusiasts, and is at most an afterthought for most workout programs. Why warm-up when you could just jump right into the fun stuff?
General physical preparedness, mobilization, muscle fiber recruitment, joint health, awakening the nervous system, just to name a few. While most would probably acknowledge that they should warm-up properly, and just don’t care enough to, they are just making everything they do during the workout less effective.
Beyond all the reasons listed above, the flat out truth is that you will more than likely receive less stimulus and in turn, less overall muscle growth if your body isn’t attuned to the loads it’s about to endure. Simply put, you won’t get as much out of the workout, which should be reason enough to convince you of its importance.
Now warm-up should vary from person to person, accounting for past and current injuries, training history, goals, age, etc. That being said, below is a general warm-up that should prepare most people for any type of workout whether it’s lower body, upper body, or just the all popular calf day.
You can do the exercises below in a circuit-format, going from one exercise to the next with minimal rest in between. Complete the circuit two times through and you should be done in 5-7 minutes.
BIRD DOG (CORE)
A classic and pretty standard movement that trainers everywhere use to create extension in the hips, fire the core, and create some cognitive stimulus through the cross-body pattern nature of the movement. These are typically done on the floor, but if those are a little too easy for you then you can do them on a bench as shown below.
SPIDERMAN (T-SPINE MOBILIZATION)
Mobilizing your thoracic spine should definitely be incorporated in your warm-up somehow. Most individuals have an excessive undesirable forward curvature of the upper back and while strengthening the muscles that support that area are what will do you good long term, you have to begin by creating some space in there first.
Below are two simple variations that incorporate good thoracic rotation and should allow you to get into overhead positions a little easier.
8-10/side for the first option, 5/side for the second.
SINGLE LEG 90 HOLD (FEET/ANKLE)
We’ve gone over the importance of foot/ankle/calf complex in this blog a few times and how learning to “grip” the floor with 3 points of contact is paramount to good lower body mechanics. With that being said you want to include some sort of single leg “balance” drill to engrain good foot activation. “Balance” is in quotes because you should be focusing more on stability and creating tension as opposed to pretending you are standing on a tightrope.
HIP BRIDGES (HAMSTRINGS/GLUTES)
The posterior chain or backside of many is typically not firing at optimal capacity in squats, deadlifts, and lunges so we want to address this in our movement prep. A standard hip bridge on the floor is a good place to start, and if that is too easy then you can perform the single leg variation as shown below.
10 reps for regular hip bridge, 8/side for the single leg.
BENT OVER Y-RAISE (MID/UPPER BACK)
Here we are talking about the middle and lower traps, external rotators of the rotator cuff, rear delts, and the rhomboids. There are a ton of movements you can do to hit these but they all essentially help with posture. Learning to turn these muscles on will help pull your shoulders down and back and improve overall movement quality.
10 reps (make sure you load hamstrings as you hinge back).