We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about warming up before training, in particular for bigger athletes. I want to start off by saying that I don’t think there should a big difference in the warm up routines between bigger and smaller athletes. The only obvious difference I notices is the amount of time that is taken for warming up. Smaller athletes have less body to get going so it doesn’t take them as long, but this is not always the case, just my observation. Regardless, I want to get someone else’s thoughts on this topic so I enlisted the help of Ben Claridad. Ben is a weightlifter and coach at Midtown Strength and Conditioning in Sacramento, CA. I first met Ben three years ago and my first thought was that this guy had the biggest arms I have ever seen. Fast forward three years he is now competing in the same weight class as me, same big ole guns, and now a majestic mane to boot. But in all seriousness, Ben is a guy with a lot of great information and not only is a national level lifter but has coached several national level lifters himself. Bottom line, he knows his stuff. So below is how Big Ben approaches his warm up routine before training. Keep in mind this is geared towards weightlifting, but I think the skills can easily be transferred and adjusted to other sports.
If you’re a biggin like myself, chances are you’ll need a warm-up routine sufficient to get all that meat and cheese moving around with any amount of athleticism. Personally speaking, my morning routine is that of a rusty junker pickup truck; it takes a certain level of finesse before I’m doing anything requiring movement at the knee and hip.
Coffee is the obvious answer to this and most problems, but my morning warm-up routine has gotten more elaborate as I started to train more sessions per week and as my numbers have started to climb up. I’ll preface this as I do with all things concerning weightlifting with “the simplest solution is always best.” In this context, I mean that if you can get by with what I call “the Brett Favre” warm-up (which is basically just throwing on your shoes and maybe taking a knee before you start taking bar sets) then go for it. I know a lot of high-level lifters like that out there, but I’m not one of them. I’m also not “foam roller/band/pvc pipe guy” who spends the majority of his day worrying about how much external rotation he’s getting at the hip.
“Hey bro! Have you done that one stretch that requires 3 green bands, a kettlebell, 2 squat racks lashed together and a chain? It really helped me open up my-“ Just stop.
Now, onto the business. My morning sequence is pretty simple. It goes: soft tissue work (5 mins or so), voodoo flossing/compression banding my patella tendons (2 mins), stretching (10-15), then workout (45 mins-hour). After that, I’ll finish with another 10-15 minutes of deeper stretching before I cool down. If I take this process seriously, more often than not I’ll be able to come into the afternoon session hot off the blocks and just get straight into the working out.
1) Soft tissue work. I’ll hit all the major muscle groups, focusing on mainly my quads, glutes, low back, lats and then traps. This is a pretty quick process and I mainly do it so I can take the edge off enough so I can start stretching. One main issue for me has always been a poor rack position mainly due to my tight traps. If I rack a bar and feel tightness stretching all the way up to my dome, then I know I didn’t spend enough time on my traps. One simple and effective solution that I’ve found is simply holding 20kg bar on my back (like a back squat) and then rolling it one one shoulder then the other, using my opposite arm to guide the bar where I need it to roll. Very simple. Very effective.
2) Flossing my patella tendons. One minute on each knee is all I need.
3) This is the meat and potatoes of my warm up process. ACTUAL STRETCHING. 15 minutes starting from the bottom (my ankles) and working my way up, knees, hips and so on. The list of stretches will vary somewhat based on how I’m feeling, but I do a lot of work to loosen up my hips and lengthen my quads enough so I can sit in a squat. A consistent one for me is the one where you sit on your shins and then lean all the way back. It’s done wonders for decreasing my knee pain. My upper body stretches will vary somewhat too, but the stretches that I like most that “untack” my scapula and get them sliding like they should. I’ll occasionally use bands for these stretches. Occasionally, I’ll suffer from some pretty bad shoulder impingement. One of my favorite stretches that help alleviate this is to lie on my side and stick out my arm (the one closest to earth) 90 degrees. I’ll then flex my elbow 90 degrees and begin gently pushing my hand towards the earth, being careful to keep my upper arm flush with the floor.
4) Workout. All of that took 15-20 minutes max. Now I’ll get my morning workout in which for the moment consists of squats and light variations of the lifts. I’ll treat this like mobility too. The harder I push for good positions now, the easier they will come in the afternoon.
5) Cool down. Now that I’m good and sweaty, I’ll hit my same stretching routine but a little bit deeper. This will ensure that I’ll be good and mobile when it’s time to get my main workout in. Hopefully you found this helpful or it gave you a few ideas for your own warm-up process, especially if you’re a big ol’ biscuit.
Well there you have it. Like Ben I am a big believer in keeping things simple. My routine and many others that I have polled follow this same format with obviously a few differences here and there. For instance, I use a PVC roller after training as part of my cool down and use a rower in my warm up. Keep simplicity in mind when going through your warm up and if should not take more than 20 minutes or so. If your warm up takes longer than the actual workout itself, you are either not taking it seriously enough and need to stop chatting with your buddies, or you are over complicating things. Get in, get loose, get swole, and get on with your day. We want to thank Ben for taking time to put this together for us. If you have a second check out Ben’s blog and find him on facebook and show him some love.