Nov 26, 2012
Warming up is an essential part of any strength and conditioning program. It can be the difference
between setting a new PR and having a crappy session.

Far too many people walk into the gym, jump onto a treadmill for 5-10 minutes, and then move straight into their workout. This is a NO-NO. Let's say your session consists of all upper body movements. How is a leisurely walk on the treadmill going to fire up your shoulders, upper back and traps, lats, and trunk to do some work?

Exactly ... it's not. The following is my take on some simple methods to ensure your body is prepped and ready to attack any workout.

As soon as you walk into the gym find yourself a little nook and a foam roller and start your SMR or self-myofascial release (fancy shmancy term for self massage). The purpose of SMR is to knead out any knots you may have in the muscle fascia (outermost covering of bundles of muscle fibers) to elicit better movement and get some blood flowing. The general prescription is to mash on the piriformis, IT bands, glutes and hamstrings, calves, quads, and upper back (thoracic spine). Some optional areas are the teres minor (little space between the armpit and the rear delt; you will know when you find it), triceps, lats, and peroneals/anterior tib (muscles on the front side of the lower leg opposite the calves). Spend about 30-60 seconds on each area or 10-15 passes back and forth.

Below is a great video from strength coach Eric Cressey on how to perform SMR with a foam roller and a lacrosse ball.

Following the SMR hit a general warmup circuit of basic movements to get the entire body rolling. This shouldn't be complicated and should consist of some simple calisthenics. Here's a short circuit starting with the head and working down to the ankles:

  1. Chin circles (draw circles with your chin)
  2. Lateral neck flexion (try to bring your ear to your shoulder without shrugging your traps)
  3. Shoulder rolls (keep your arms at your sides; forwards and backwards)
  4. Arm circles (keep the thumbs up; start small and gradually get bigger; forwards and backwards)
  5. Bodyweight good mornings
  6. Hip circles
  7. Overhead bodyweight squats (chest up; butt back; knees out; spread the floor)
  8. Ankle Circles (in and out)
 *Perform 1 set of 10-15 reps of each exercise

The final component of a solid warm up is to activate the muscles you will be targeting in the workout. Any of these exercises can be found on YouTube or through a Google search. Choose 2-3 exercises from each group depending on whether you're performing an upper body or lower body session. If you're hitting a full body session pick 2 from each group.

Upper Body:
  • Incline YTWL's
  • Face pulls
  • Pushups plus
  • Band snow angels
  • Supinated band pullaparts

Lower Body:
  • X-band walks
  • Glute bridges
  • Hurdlers
  • Leg swings (front to back; side to side)
  • Fire hydrants
 *Perform 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps of each exercise

Once you get into the groove of the movements and you don't have to rely on looking at a piece of paper to remember them, this entire warm up will only take about 10 minutes (15 minutes on the high end).

Warm up right, get your body fired up, and hit some PRs.

In Strength,
Franco Crincoli


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Franco Crincoli
I am a personal trainer, strength coach, and all around iron addict, with a philosophy deeply rooted in old school methods. My training has been influenced by strongmen, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, gymnasts, and the Golden Era bodybuilders. I believe in reaping the greatest rewards the simplest (not easiest) way possible and having fun doing it.
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