I’m sick of people skipping (or skimping on) warming-up.
Let’s be honest; we’ve all been guilty of bailing on warm-ups, myself included.
And like many others, I’ve paid the price with exercise-induced injuries.
I know the benefits sound boring, but they’re kind of a big deal.
Here’s a few of ‘em: increased body temperature, improved range of motion, increased blood flow, improved performance (this is quite a claim, but it’s been proven in the U.S. National Library of Medicine), and decreased risk of injury.
No, your warm-up is not gonna chisel your abs or blow up your biceps, but it’s the foundation that’s required to effectively do those things. And without a proper warm-up, injuries are inevitable (an example many can relate to is cuff / shoulder / lat trauma due to benching without a proper upper body warm-up).
After recently fine-tuning my own warm-up, I’ve decreased chronic shoulder pain that has nagged me for years (particularly on pushing movements), significantly improved upper- and lower-body mobility, and diminished the effects of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness AKA the sore muscles you experience days after a tough sweat sesh). This has allowed me train harder, recover faster, and move better than ever before, and I’m writing today to reveal the exercises that are working best.
If you’ve never done a warm-up like this, it may feel like its own mini-workout. That’s a good thing!
Here are a few of the best warm-up exercises with injury prevention in mind:
When it comes to upper-body warm-ups, shoulder and cuff health are the name of the game. Lack of mobility in the cuff, shoulder, and pecs is the most common culprit for upper body injuries, so these exercises are designed to loosen up those areas and really work on shoulder health.
Pec Self-Myofascial Release
Self-myofascial release is the fancy way of saying self-massage. Grab a foam roller (or if you’re experienced with SMR, a medicine ball) and start rolling out your pecs. As a guideline, keep the roller or ball close to your armpit and your arm extended up. If you’re up for an extra challenge after a solid 30-90 seconds seeking tight spots on each side, try putting your arm behind your back to really go deep on your pecs and cuffs.
Shoulder Dislocations With Band
For most of you, these will be very difficult the first time you try them. That’s simply a sign your cuffs lack mobility and you need to do more of ‘em. No band? No problem. Grab a broomstick and watch the movement below.
P.S. I know the name sounds scary, but I promise they’re safe. I suggest performing 5 – 15 reps overhand and 5 – 15 reps underhand daily.
Band Pull Aparts
No, these are not a traditional warm-up exercise. In fact, they’re mainly used to strengthen the upper back and shoulder muscles. But, they double as a great way to warm-up your upper body’s postural muscles and, of course, improve shoulder health. Grab a thin superband (½ inch or less) or resistance band and master the movement by activating muscles that have likely been overlooked for years (or decades in my case).
Always keep your arms fully extended and initiate the pull by retracting your shoulder blades. Perform 10-20 of these with both an underhand and overhand grip daily.
I could fill a book with lower-body warm-up exercises, but here are a few that give you the biggest bang for your buck. As shoulders are the focus with upper-body warm-ups, hips, glutes, and hamstrings are the key players when it comes to your bottom half.
Glute & IT Band Self Myofascial Release
Grab a medicine ball, foam roller, or lax ball (not for the faint of heart) and spend some time rolling out your glutes and IT bands, as these are typically the two tightest muscle groups below the belt. Make your passes slow and forceful as you scan for tight spots to break up with an extended pause. 10 – 15 passes across each area on each side will do the trick.
Fire Hydrant Circles:
The king of hip-opening exercises, hydrants have a variety of variations to ensure your hip mobility is on point. I suggest starting with small circles and working your way up to bigger circles before flipping directions and repeating on both sides. Keep your arms straight and core tight (you should be able to balance a bowl of water on your back without spilling a drop throughout the sequence).
Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps on each side and in each direction before moving on.
Squat-> Inchworm-> Strider Stretch
Don’t let the arrows intimidate you. This exercise combines three of the best warm-up movements into one flow. Start with a bodyweight squat, lowering until your butt’s below your knees. Lean forward and walk your body out inchworm style until you’re in push-up position. Then, perform a strider stretch by driving each leg to the outside of the hand one at a time. Drop into an extended lunge position and use your upper arm to keep the outside leg wide (and to get a little extra groin stretch) as you pause for a 3 count.
Repeat the process in reverse. Returning to a standing position and complete 3-5 more cycles.
After performing these exercises, I guarantee you won’t need to worry about injury. And if you’re already battling pain, tightness, and lack of mobility, these may be just what the doctor ordered.
Now go press play on FORTË and enjoy the extra mobility as you sweat through another round of at-home exercise!
P.S. When you’re ready to hit the weights, give kettlebells a try. I’ve got a colossal crush on these cannonball-shaped weights, and I recently shared 3 of the best exercises for a full-body, kettlebell workout right here!
Clay Manley is a word nerd with a fitness background. A Certified Personal Trainer who took his talents to the keyboard. You can give him a shout and find more of his work here.