Warm Up Warrior

As an avid heavy lifter I find myself getting excited on the days of big lifts. I imagine the sound of clink-clanking plates and I remember the scent of old metal bars. When I close my eyes I can see the chalk floating around me after being freshly painted onto a pair of calloused palms. I love heavy lift days.

You feel really close to God when put your body under hundreds of pounds just for a commercial hobby. The excitement of getting the lift or the humility of failing is unforgettable on the palate of any true lifter. It’s no wonder why so many athletes run through their warm-ups in an attempt to wrap their fingers around the bar faster; a mistake I have fallen prey to before as well.

Warming up has been regarded as either the most important or the most horrendous part of a workout. In the early era of sports performance many athletes would perform static (non-moving) stretches before practice/competition. It was thought that doing this would reduce injury and improve performance, however, in the 90’s this was thought to be questionable. By the 21’st century any good strength coach knew that static stretching before performing inhibited an athlete’s abilities. Like an infection, the notion of static stretching pre competition was quarantined to the average Joe. This is why your crossfit coach might have smirked when you did your pre workout toe touch.

The most popular warm-up done now is called dynamic stretching. Dynamic refers to performing moving motions that will push blood into the muscle to help with energy recruitment. However, dynamic warm-ups are not your only option when it comes to preparing for your workout. I include three other components in my warm-up that have helped me lift heavier with better mechanics.

Have you ever head the phrase, my cup runs over? In this case, my cup runs over with warm-up routines. Every single workout I go through four distinct warm-ups: dynamic, yoga, joint mobility, and CNS prep.
Despite the distaste that is painted across their face, I still make the MSU powerlifting team go through these each time. It is very easy to over warm-up, however, it is equally as easy to under warm-up. Not warming up enough could land you in the very position that I put myself in months ago; mechanical misalignment and injury.  By doing my four warm up steps you will help align and set your joints, your muscles will be running with the proper energy system, your force production at end range of motion will be improved, and your Central Nervous System will be able to better recruit motor end plates.

The dynamic warm-up I perform is always the same; day in and day out. The word dynamic originates from French where it means to use force to produce motion with the opposition of static. Remember your old school toe-touch warm up? Imagine doing that but while moving. My classic list of dynamic stretches includes lunges, cross overs, pistol lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, and leg swings. I linked some of these if you didn’t know what they are. Doing dynamic stretches is like pouring concrete for a soon-to-be sky scraper; it’s the foundation. By moving you are making the blood vessels in the muscle larger which is in turn feeding them more nutrition. It’s like pushing the pedal on your car down while you’re still in park; you’ll fuel the engine and heat it up. This is equally important because it will help your body engage other energy systems to use.

I’m not afraid to admit that I do yoga before I lift. With quads like mine I have nothing to fear in the gym. Sure some guys look at me like I’m some sort of unholy monster, but the end results make it totally worth the stares. I’ve jokingly referred to yoga as “mobility for males,” but the truth is yoga has great implications for lifting. Before I got injured I would only do yoga on my off days to improve my end range of motion. Afterwards I realized that yoga can be used to set particular joints and bones in their place. If you have a range of motion problem it may not be joint mobility. It could be the result of misaligned structures. Youtube has hundreds of videos that could help you find a quick routine to fix your problems.

Earlier this week I admitted to being a heretic when I confessed to doing types of static stretches before I lift. Lucky for me no one seemed to get too offended. Without making you read the other post here are the details: stretch at the joint not the muscle, only perform 15 second stretches for a total time of no longer than 90 seconds, and try to align your joints or smash scar tissue. If that wasn’t enough check out “Static Stretching Before Lifting…I Do It.”

Every piece of my warm up is an important part to the puzzle of a successful workout, but the central nervous system (CNS) is the biggest piece. Yes, if my hips are misaligned I won’t be able to use my femurs as good levers. However, if I can’t get my CNS to get excited then I won’t be lifting any heavy weights.
At meets I’m somewhat of a spectacle. My wife charges a fee for people that want to watch me warm up. I stomp, I shout, and I make a scene. Why? Because I have warmed my CNS up and I am trying to excite it enough to lift something heavy. I’m a carnival show, but it works for me. Perhaps you don’t like screaming before you squat, but you should still prime your CNS by warming up right. It takes several sets to truly get your CNS excited, this means that you should plan on having 3-5 weighted warm up sets before your working set. Each set should be done with tenacity; move that weight like your life depended on it. As the sets go on, you will increase the weight but continue to explode the bar. For example, when I squat I perform a set with 135 lbs, then 225 lbs, then 315 lbs, then 365 lbs, before I throw on 405. As your body adjusts to the load the weight will start to feel lighter, it’s awesome.

So if your heavy days feel like deposits in a porcelain bowl, I recommend you revamp your warm up. If you want to know my exact warm up just comment below or email me at endunamoox@gmail.com

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.