Do you know how to cook the perfect steak on the BBQ? I wouldn’t consider myself a great cook by no means, but I can cook a mean steak, at least that’s what Shelley tells me. Why am I talking about cooking a steak in a post about how to warm-up before strength training?
Well I haven’t eaten yet today so that’s part of the reason, but the real reason is that to cook a perfect steak I need to preheat the grill so it’s nice and hot. That way I get that nice searing sound as soon as the steak touches the grill, sealing in the juices.
Preheating the grill gives me a delicious steak. Preheating your body will give you a better workout. You would never put a steak on a cold BBQ, so don’t start a hard workout with a cold body. Consider your body the BBQ, and the workout your steak. The more warmed up you are, the better that workout is going to be.
Our previous post was all about foam rolling. The benefits and more importantly how to do it. As you may be starting to tell from our content, we are all about doing things right. So let’s move into performing a proper warm-up that will prepare your body for an effective strength training workout.
Always Roll First
The Foam Rolling routine we demonstrated in the previous post is a great start to a strength training warm-up. It will increase your body’s internal temperature, as well as knead out tight and tender areas in your muscles.
When you get back to your feet after your finish, pay attention to how you feel. Hopefully you feel loosened up, and little more relaxed.
Shelley and I are huge advocates of foam rolling, and self-massage work in general. It really helps you feel and move better once you get into your workout. And it helps you feel and move better in everyday life as well. You can pick up your kids/grand kids without having to worry about what might happen to your back this time!
So ALWAYS roll first! Do the whole routine 2-3 times a week for 2-3 weeks to get used to using a foam roller, as well as working out your tightest and most sore areas. Keeping your muscles healthy will undoubtedly lead to long term success with your fitness goals.
Take the time to learn how do this the right way. You will be glad you did, trust us!
For a quick reference, here is a playlist from our YouTrainYou youtube channel of all the foam rolling videos from our article on foam rolling:
Let Your Joints Lead The Way
If we have a quick look at your skeleton, we can design a very simple warm-up that will make sense to you. Let’s take yet another look at the most fascinating little movers, our children!
In this former post we talked about how babies are born with nothing but mobility. Over time, they start to develop stability in the joints that will require it the most: the neck, the shoulder blades, the lumbar spine (core), and the knees.
At the same time, they keep their mobility in the joints that allow them to move so well: The shoulders, upper back (thoracic spine), hips, and ankles.
This mobility/stability continuum is what allows our bodies to move the way they do. We have a stable joint, followed by a mobile joint, followed by a stable joint, then mobile, and you get the idea. This is known as the Joint by Joint Approach. It was developed by the renowned Strength Coach, Mike Boyle and renowned Physical Therapist, Gray Cook.
I highly recommend Googling either of these gentlemen if you want a more in-depth explanation of this approach to training, but for our purposes, here’s a nice infographic that gives you a visual of the Joint-by-Joint Concept:
I find a picture helps to explain this concept much easier. You can see the alternating joints and their role of stability or mobility. So, back to our baby example.
A physically healthy baby, or toddler, can hang out in a deep squat, and make it seem effortless. And it is for them! So…
What Happens to us?
Can you easily sit in a deep squat? If you can, give yourself a pat on the back. I can tell you that most people can’t, not without going up onto their toes, or significantly rounding their upper backs.
When Shelley or I demonstrate a deep squat in our assessment with a client, we often hear remarks such as:
“Huh, that ain’t happening”
“You want me to that?”
“I hate Squats”
“I’ve never been able to do Squats”
Well I have news for all these people. At one time in your life, you could squat perfectly, easily, and in fact, sometimes you preferred it over sitting when you were playing! So what the heck happened?
That’s right, life happened. At the age of five, or four, for us late birthdays, we were forced into a desk for most of the day. We did this for 13 years, graduated, then decided to sit in another bunch of desks for another 4 or 5 years (I know not everyone does this, but just stay with me). We graduated from that, then get a job that places us in a more comfortable chair for, well, as many years as you need to retire.
Now, as I just mentioned in brackets, we don’t all follow this path. But, no matter what you end up doing in life, you will spend a lot, and I mean A LOT of time sitting. Especially in the digital age that we live in now. What’s my point?
My point is that we have lost mobility in the joints I listed above from all this sitting. We also don’t have the best stability in the other joints I listed from all this sitting.
So it’s not that you “could never do squats”, it’s that you lost the ability (mobility/stability) to perform a squat. Does this make sense? I hope it does.
Let’s get your ability to sit in a deep squat back. In fact, let’s get your whole body moving the right way, so you get the most out of your workouts, which equals better results.
That’s what our warm-up, or any good warm-up should be about.
Just remember this one key thing..
Mobility Before Stability
Remember one simple thing in your warm-up; we always work on mobility before stability. Restore movement to where you are supposed to have it, then stabilize the areas around that joint. That’s how it works when we develop as a baby, we just don’t have to work on mobility because we already have it.
Okay, let’s do this!
Ankle Mobility – Kneeling Ankle Dorsiflexion
Do you ever wear shoes? I hope so! And guess what? You might have stiff ankles. It’s not just from wearing heels, even your average running shoe or athletic training shoe has a forward slope that places your weight more on your toes. This can and does lead to stiff ankles.
Seeing how your calves are already loosened up from foam rolling, let’s jump into your ankle mobility exercise. First, check out this video of what ankle dorsiflexion means:
Now, here is a video of the Kneeling Ankle Dorsiflexion, or as the video is titled, Ankle Mobility with Stick:
Anterior Hip Mobility – Hip Flexor Stretch
Your anterior hips really take a beating from all that sitting, so let’s open them up! Check out the video below of a basic Hip Flexor Stretch:
Upper Back/Thoracic Spine Mobility – Upper Back Extensions
All the sitting doesn’t do our upper back any favors either. We all end up in that hunch back position on our computers, tablets, and phones. Over time, we start to lose the ability to fully extend our thoracic spine.
Here’s an exercise that will help to restore your ability to extend your upper back:
Note: The Foam Roller shown in the video is a Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller. I’ve had this foam roller for at least six years and it’s still like the day I bought it. Great quality, easy to use, and inexpensive. You can find one on Amazon.
Now that we have restored a little bit of mobility to our ankles, hips and upper back, it’s time to hit a few stability exercises where we need it most: Knees/Posterior Hips, Lumbar Spine, and Shoulder Blades (also known as your scapula, or scapulae for plural if you want to be technical).
Posterior Hip/Knee Stability – Band Resisted Glute Bridge
The Posterior Hips are essentially your Glutes. Your Glutes are like the power house to your lower body. They are a big strong muscle that drive hip extension, an essential movement to learn for proper lifting mechanics.
Your Glutes are also a big stabilizer for your knees. They keep them in proper alignment for all lower body exercises you will learn here at youtrainyou.com. There is just one problem….
Your Glutes most likely don’t engage properly. They are like a dimmer switch set on low, from sitting on them all the time. So let’s turn up the dimmer switch with this exercise, the Band Resisted Glute Bridge:
Note: The mini-band I use to demonstrate the Glute Bridge in the video helps to encourage better glute engagement and knee stability, as you have to resist the band from pulling your knees in as you perform the Glute Bridge. We definitely recommend them.
These mini-bands are made by Perform Better, and are pretty cheap at $17.95 (USD) for a set of four. Easy (yellow), medium (green), hard (blue), and difficult (black). You can find them on Amazon.
Lumbar Spine Stability – Bird-Dog
If you read our post on Core Training for Lower Back Pain, you would remember seeing the Bird-Dog. It helps teach your core to stabilize while you move contralateral limbs (opposite arm/leg). The key is to minimize movement at your lower back/lumbar spine:
Shoulder Blade/Scapular Stability – Tall Kneeling Weighted Hold
If you read our post on Core Training for Beginners, you would remember seeing the Tall Kneeling Weighted Hold. You might be starting to see a trend here, our posts tie into each other. Youtrainyou.com is your crash course in personal training…. for yourself.
This exercise helps to teach proper shoulder blade resting posture for when you are training, or for when you are walking around in your day to day life. Here is a video of the Tall Kneeling Weighted Hold:
You are Officially Warmed-Up, So Now What?
We want you to know everything we do ourselves, as well as with our clients to help all of us have safe, challenging, and effective workouts that produce lasting results in how you look, feel and move.
It might seem like a lot of information at first, but take the time to read it, learn it, practice it, and we can promise it will work!
We know how difficult finding good exercise advice that you can trust is. There is a lot of conflicting information, and what works one day, doesn’t work the next. When I first started reading about Fitness and Nutrition in 2007, I eventually learned to pick a few key people to read information by, and stuck to them. And it paid off!
Is our information the best? I honestly don’t know. You can decide that for yourself. What I can tell you is that our advice has over 30 years of combined exercise experiences, as well as almost 15 years combined personal training experiences between Shelley and I.
We don’t know it all, but what we do know, we know it well, and we want to share it all with you so you can hopefully get in the best shape of your life.
In our next post, we will begin helping teach you how to design a strength training program in your own home. It can be used in the gym as well, we just love to workout at home, so that’s why we gravitate towards it.
Look forward to any comments or questions as always.
All the Best,
Rodney and Shelley