5 Overlooked Things all Warm-ups Should Contain

By djpope

December 15, 2014

warmupAhhh, the elusive warm-up.  Everywhere you go there is someone who has the “best” warm-up around.  While I’ve seen some really good warm-ups out there, I doubt there really is a “perfect warm-up.”  Like most things in rehab and fitness a warm-up should be catered around the individual, their specific needs, goals and what the workout is going to contain.

It’s pretty common knowledge that a warm-up should contain 4 basic things:

  • Increase the heart rate and respiratory rate
  • Increase body temperature
  • Take your joints through a full range of motion
  • Contain exercises specific to the workout to be performed

All of this is fantastic stuff.  As a therapist I feel the warm-up is a fantastic time to work on several other aspects that are important from a therapy point of view.   These are:

  1. Mobility Drills Specific to Your Own Limitations
  2. Squat, Deadlift and Overhead Mobility / Range of Motion
  3. Squat, Deadlift and Overhead technique and stability drills
  4. Conditioning for the Lower Leg, Shoulders and Wrists

1. Mobility Drills Specific to Your Own Limitations

Everyone is an individual and each person is going to present with a different limitation.  Some people have a poor snatch technique that is attributed to one stiff ankle while another person might have poor shoulder mobility.

Finding out where your limitations are is a vital part of progressing safely with your exercise program and also becoming more efficient with the movements you wish to master.  I’ve posted way too much assessment information through my site which you can find some of HERE.  This part of the warm-up should come first and I’ll usually recommend spending 5-10 minutes working these issues before starting the main warm-up (Or warming up with the rest of the box).

2. Squat, Deadlift and Overhead Mobility / Range of Motion

Mastering the squat, deadlift (and bar path during cleans and snatches) and overhead press is going to be paramount in our training.  If you’ve got any mobility or flexibility restrictions during these lifts, you won’t be as efficient as you could be and could also potentially be making yourself more vulnerable to injury.

I like to put some mobility drills into each and every session when time allows because it’s just that important.  Besides, how many of your athletes are always going to spend the time they need to hammer out their mobility problems?  Not too many.  Here are some of my favorite drills:

3. Squat, Deadlift and Overhead Technique and Stability Drills

Unfortunately, stretching doesn’t lead to permanent changes in our motion.  We need to reinforce mobility we’ve created and have that carry over to our exercises.  I like to keep these drills as specific to the movements we’re trying to improve as possible.  I really enjoy working at Crossfit Verve because I feel they do an excellent job reinforcing proper position and drilling technique and progression into every warm-up.

When trying to improve the squat in a greenhorn population I’ll make sure we do a few reps of tempo bodyweight squats.   Good mornings work well for programming the hip hinge and teaching shoulder position with a PVC locked overhead is also a great tool.

For the more advanced athletes some great exercises could be a snatch balance or sott’s press.  I also like do segmental pulls to help with bar path during olympic lifts.  Handstand drills also reinforce shoulder overhead position well in a population that can handle it.

4. Conditioning for the Lower Leg 

I see more plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis(opathy) and calf strain injuries then I’d like to.  I feel like a large part of this is throwing a workout at your athlete that contains a large amount of jumping before your athlete is ready for it.

Like any other bodypart, the lower leg needs to be conditioned for the demands that will be placed upon it.  Adding exercises like jump rope, pogo jumps, skipping drills and jumping progressions into your warm-up can help to mitigate these injuries.

Also keep in mind that we perform a large variety of jumping movements in our regular programming but I don’t frequently see coaches teaching their athletes how to properly jump and land.  Jumping is a complex skill just like an olympic lift or muscle-up and should be treated as one.  Just make sure you don’t put sprints and maximal jumps early on in the warm-up.  A jumping progression should start with the basics and work-up.  I’ve seen a few people strain their calves first thing in a warm-up with a poorly placed sprinting or jumping drill.

5. Conditioning for the Shoulders 

This one should really come as no surprise.  Shoulders are generally the joint I see most often when people are in pain.  Every opportunity to make the shoulder more resilient to injury should be taken.  I’m a big fan of crawling variations, tempo pushups and dips and kettlebell overhead movements.  Here is a video of some of my favorite shoulder health exercises.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of a solid training program.  The warm-up shouldn’t take over the majority of the workout.  Just ensure that your programming is catered toward your goals, is progressive and incremental in nature and you’ve got a good coach or training partner to help you along the way.

Turkish Get-ups for the Win,

Dan Pope DPT, CSCS

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