- Do your warm-up every day to battle “sticky” movement patterns from a sedentary lifestyle.
- Focus on improving mobility, then reinforcing movement with activation for stability.
- Movement empowers action. Move daily…or die early. Your choice!
Performing a simple warm-up daily is the key restoring mobility, wiping out pain and dysfunction, and making pain free progress in the gym.
Think it’s too simple to be true? Think again.
While simple doesn’t mean easy, this article breaks down why you need to warm-up every day. It details what to do. And it explains how warm-ups will improve your gym performance and quality of life.
Sound good? Let’s get started with what might be…
Your Typical Day
You’re stuck in traffic for forty-five minutes with glazed over, sleep deprived eyes.
Your shoulders are slumped over like Quasimodo. But you somehow manage to slurp some coffee along the way.You stroll into the office as caffeine floods your system, giving you a sudden burst of energy.
You’ve plopped into your office chair to attack the ole’ inbox. Soon, you’ve inched closer to the screen, rounding your shoulders, jetting your head forward like a decrepid turtle.
Forty five minutes later, a break. You stand up, shake out your “dormant, deactivated” and meander into the water cooler.
Next up: Meetings. Then, more meeting. Rinse, repeat, and recycle for hours on end until the day concludes.
You hit the gym (if you’re not too tired) then drive home. Oh, the joys of modern society.
Sound Familiar? Even a Little?
Admittedly, the above scenario is a bit melodramatic. But you get the point. We spend most days hunched over our phones and laptops like Quasimodo examining his first Hustler magazine. Hours, days, and weeks pass.
Soon, this posture hard wires into your system and becomes the new “natural.”
Before you know it, your shoulders curve like a banana, your head pops forward like a turtle, and your once plump ass is flatter and less active than a flaccid…pancake.
Which leads to my key point: To undue the “locked-in” movements of everyday life, you need to move often.
“If I don’t use it…will I lose it?”
Will you lose mobility and movement quality? Yes.
Per the 40-Year Old Virgin and virginity? No. Sorry. (But if you think getting jacked and looking better naked will help you there, join the Minimalist Muscle revolution).
By far the biggest changes I’ve seen in client movement quality and pain-free performance is a direct result of daily warm-ups.
They succeeded by creating a habit of performing a few basic movement patterns day in, day out.
Given our propensity to sit for hours we need a proactive approach to improving movement quality. It takes hours to build and reinforce bad positions, so it’ll take an aggressive approach to undue the damage.
P.S. Wonder why movement quality is important? Here’s a chilling illustration of how it affects your body. Not one for visuals? This summary of 47 studies concluded extended times of sitting increase your rate of kickin’ it six-feet under by 24%. Fuck that.
Improving tissue quality, activation, and mobility takes months, not days and weeks. Think about it. Most people spend over one third of their days sitting. It takes time to overcome the damages from sitting. Your body needs time to familiarize with these new movements and realize they’re safe and improve your posture.
Mobilize and Activate
Ever notice that a new stretch or drill feels tight and uncomfortable? This is a neural protective mechanism in your muscles saying, “Ahhh…slow down, bruh. I don’t think this is safe. Slow it down, kaaay?”
As a result, your muscles fire up and reflexively contract to prevent over-stretching and snappin’ your muscles.
Science speak version: Muscle spindles and Golgi-tendon organs (GTO’s) are two important proprioceptors that regulate muscle stiffness. When triggered, the GTO causes muscles to relax the contraction, a process called autogenic inhibition. Similarly, when a muscle spindle contracts the muscle slides back together, contracting and preventing the muscle from over stretching. This is the stretch reflex. Combined, these bro’s relay signals back to your Central Nervous System to help you stretch and mobilize safely and effectively and prevent snappin’ yo shit. #science.)
To overcome your body’s’ natural protective mechanisms you need to first practice the movements consistently to acclimate to the stress.
Then, reinforce new ranges of motion with activation to provide support to a greater range of motion and tell your body, “this is okay.”
The combination of mobilizing then reinforcing the range of motion with activation improves movement quality for pain-free performance. Think of it with the analogy of…
Building a Tower
Mobility provides the basic structural foundation.
Activation provides the support to build a bigger tower to withstand wind, forces, and support hundreds of millions of pounds. Without a foundation of mobility or reinforcements from activation, the tower is unsafe. Your body works the same way.
38997190 – two lifting crane and building under construction
Each day you’ll need to attack mobility on trouble spots. For most people, this comes down to thoracic mobility, hip mobility, and ankle mobility.
What To Do… Warm Up Every Damn Day
Every day (training or not) make it a ritual to warm-up, mobilize, and activate.
Most lifters work the typical desk job, sitting in the same position for 8-12 hours a day, 300 days per year. This makes jumping into a similar flexed position (deadlift, squat) risky. By training the core first in the workout, you’re activating dormant muscles that spend most of the day relaxed.
Think about it:
After sitting, the muscles responsible for preventing unwanted movement and transferring force to your core are relatively deactivated. They’ve had no reason to move, so they take a nap.
If these muscles aren’t firing, how can you expect them to prevent your spine from folding like the Bills in the Super Bowl once you add heavy weight?
On off days, wake up five minutes early and do this warm-up first in the morning. If you wake up five minutes early, you have no excuse NOT to do it.
P.S. You have the time. Make it happen. No excuses.
Perform each exercise for one set of six reps.
Jump Rope/Jumping Jack/ANYTHING to get the blood flowing
Why: The goal with the first activity is to improve blood flow, and increase body temperature. I prefer the jump-rope to improve coordination, footwork, and athleticism and gushed about the jump-rope being the most underutilized tool in the gym, here.
Since most of my clients are weekend warriors, office warriors by day and kid-chasers by night, sprints and jumps are necessary to compete safely and effectively. Using the jump-rope prepares the achilles tendon for rapid contractions and teaches the core to stay rigid and transfer force without buckling like the 1-35W bridge every time you move like an athlete.
P.S.This is purely anecdotal, but I believe there are more achilles tendon issues with weekend warriors playing rec sports than anywhere else due to poorly prepared tissues.
Quadruped Fire Hydrant
This exercise has been a staple in my warm-ups since Loren Landow recommended them.
The quadruped position has reduces lumbar loads–a metaphorical “orgasm” for your spine after sitting all day–while simultaneously improving muscle activation in your thoracic extensors, lats, and obliques (McGill, 2002).
The fire hydrant provides a low-stress exercise to resist rotation through your spine while firing up your gluteus medius–an often neglected glute muscle essential to providing support to your hip, knee, and ankle.
P.S. Are your knees diving in when landing, squatting, or lunging? Double up on these. Welcome.
Quadruped Hip Extension
Why: As mentioned, the quadruped position is absolute cash-money for core and glute activation without spinal stress. By adding a hip extension, you’ll fire up dormant glutes to fire up gluteal muscle fibers to support improved performance, better muscle gains, and potentially reduce back pain. Assume the quad position with your spine neutral and actively pushing through the floor for the entire set. Don’t allow any movement through your lower back as you extend the hip, pause, and return to the starting position.
Why: This drill grooves the squat pattern, aiding mobility through your hips, knees, and ankles. I recommend performing with a shoulder width stance and NO wider. Allow the knees to drift past the toes as long as your heels stay planted. This improves active dorsiflexion through your ankle, allowing better movement mechanics.
P.S. For a more advanced option, try the goblet squat every-day for rapid-leg gains.
Why: The T-Push warms-up your chest, shoulders, arms, and back while engaging the core to control rotation. Do you spend a lot of time sitting and hunched over? This exercise will help break-up the stiffness in your upper back and shoulders. Stay slow and controlled, following your hand with your eyes on each push-up.
Why: Lunges prepares your body for sagittal plane (front and back) movements, loosening the hip, knee, and ankle. This improves both stability and mobility to improve performance and keep you injury free.
Groiner with T-Rotation
Why: Crappy hip mobility leads to back and knee issues, poor posture, and hinder your ability to stay healthy and athletic.
Use the groiner to unlock your hips and add the t-rotation to improve thoracic mobility. Make sure you keep the front heel down on each “step” to minimize shear stress on the knee.
Also, wear a snapback.
Toe Grab/Sumo Squat
Why: Keep a wide stance and allow the elbows to drop inside the hips, pushing the knees out with your elbows. This drill grooves the squat pattern, aiding mobility through your hips, knees, and ankles. You’ll loosen and warm-up your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and groin.
With this movement combo i’ve seen incredible improvements with client movement patterns, pain, and performance. But the underlying key is a focus, discipline, and consistency.
The Warm Up Every Day Takeaway
It’s time to treat movement like medicine. Unless you want to keel over a walker, suffer through bad-boners (bad for everyone), and live on a drug cocktail that would make Charlie Sheen envious.
It’s on us to move every day and empower lifelong movement, health, and vitality.
Hitting the gym three to five times a week isn’t enough.
Walk every day. I advise my army of jacked, high-performance clients to walk 10,000 steps per day regardless of their goal to improve health. I suggest you do the same.
Then, do the basic warm-up above to improve movement quality, fire up dormant muscles, prime your CNS for strength and athleticism. You’ll improve posture and feel better, thereby making you a more confident, attractive, and awesome human.
And take five minutes to warm-up every day.
McGill S. Low Back Disorders – Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics; 2002