The warm-up before the warm-up

So you’re early for a class. YEAH!

What do you do? Sit around, chat with your friends, check your phone, pretend to stretch a little bit, maybe lounge around on a foam roller for a couple minutes as you essentially do nothing more than count down the minutes for the class to start?

Or make the most of the 15 to 20 minutes you have before the class or your personal training session starts by properly preparing your muscles and joints to maximize your training each day?

Surprise, surprise, we suggest the latter…

If you’re prone to injuries or have a common deficiency like tight shoulders or tight hips, this is especially important. And as you become more fit, skilled and strong, it becomes increasingly important to really take the time to prepare your body properly. When I have warmed up my overhead position properly, I’m always amazed how much better my snatch or jerk feels when I start loading up the bar.

Here’s a quick “pre-warm-up” guide for you to follow each day:

Step 1: Be aware of what’s happening each day

Check out the lesson plan for the day! Your preparation will at least partially be determined by the plan for the day.

Step 2: Resist…

…the urge to grab your usual foam roller. I know, it’s tempting to “ease into the day” with a relaxing foam roller session, but foam rolling is better to be done as a cool down than a warm-up.

Step 3 (3-5 minutes): Get Hot!

In other words, get the blood flowing and your heart rate up by rowing, running, biking, skipping—really anything with constant movement. In the winter, this is especially important. If your hands feel physically cold, you’re definitely not warm enough to handle heavy weights or high-intensity conditioning. If you’re an early morning gym-goer, this is even more important!

Step 3 (5 minutes): Get limber!

In other words, put your body through a full range of motion warm-up:

If you’re notoriously tight as a board, go through some dynamic stretching. Get those shoulders, hips, hamstrings, quads limbered up. On the flipside, if you’re hyper mobile—i.e. you’re the girl whose pelvis can touch the floor as you lunge—prioritize stabilizing your joints over mobilizing them. Banded work and the crossover symmetry is great for this.

Step 4 (5 minutes): Individual!

If you have flexibility or stability deficiencies, or lingering injuries, talk to your coach. He/she will prescribe some individual movements/concepts you should include in your pre-warm-up each day.

Step 5: (5 minutes): Specific activation!

If time permits, refer to the lesson plan of the day and spend the last bit of time ensuring you’re prepared.

If you’re going overhead in the class and your shoulders are tight, for example, do some banded shoulder press and an overhead barbell hold. If deadlifts are on the agenda today, activate your glutes and hamstrings with some glute bridges and banded good mornings. Or if it’s a big pulling day, do some banded pull apart, lat pulldown, scapula push ups and pull ups and some ring rows.

Warming up is more an art than a science, but the concept is simple: Get hot, get limber, activate accordingly, and get going!