It’s time to face the facts that you’re getting older and your body can’t complete the same tasks it used to. Each movement must be a little more calculated, and your body needs to go through a sufficient warm up in order to avoid a tweak or injury.
And lets be honest… we need LESS time flopping around on the ground on the foam roller and more time training. That’s why I’m going to show you how to perfect the warm up process in just 5-minutes.
Getting older is never fun, especially when you’re trying like hell to continue training like you did in your twenties. Believe me, I just hit the big 3-0 and have had a steady diet of humble pie over the last year or so, learning quickly that my body is not like it used to be.
While there are certainly some workarounds that Dr. Rusin provides regularly on how you can lift and keep your joints happy as you get older, it’s simply the cost of doing business that things will sometimes hurt thanks to your affinity for throwing iron around on a regular basis.
But never let someone tell you that ‘you’re just going to be in pain and feel beat up’ simply because of your age. There are ways around it.
All the gurus seem to say that you just need to extend your warm up as you get older. A little extra foam rolling here, some more activation there, and you should be good to go, right?
But what if you don’t have the time to add in more warm up? Generally, your thirties and forties are the busiest time of your life, with more responsibility away from the gym than ever.
What if you just want to get in the gym and move some iron? You’re an athlete, you’re competitive, and warm up provides no chance to compete with yourself or anyone else. You just want to get in, get the job done and get out.
Most importantly, what if you simply don’t like warming up? It’s slow, it’s boring, it doesn’t involve smashing personal records.
When you’re literally cramming a 45 minute lift into an already jam packed day, you need efficiency and results, not more of the thing you hate the most.
I’m here to tell you there is a better way.
By using a simple, effective system, you can get your warm up done in 5 minutes or less and start moving the barbell with authority, without worrying if you’re going to crumple on your first working set.
Dynamic Warm Up
I’m not going to let you off the hook completely and say you can walk into the gym, grab an empty barbell and call those reps your entire warm up.
I’m also not here to say this is the only way to warm up. You can get all the benefits of a dynamic warm up with just a little more time than the one I’ll show you by using Dr. John Rusin’s 6-Phase Dynamic Warm Up Routine.
This is for everyone who despises warm ups. It’s for those of you who would otherwise skip out on them altogether.
The same principles outlined below apply to the 6-Phase warm up. Use a proven system that’s focused on the movements you’ll be completing on that specific day.
Release tight muscles, activate weak or inactive ones, and integrate it all into some form of locomotion that has you moving your body through space.
You can make your warm up go by much quicker by keeping it dynamic, and only doing the exercises that are absolutely necessary.
A sufficient dynamic warm up accomplishes two feats:
- Increases core body temperature
- Prepares the joints, tendons and muscles to move weight
That begs the question, how should you go about doing that in a timely manner? How can you make sure you tick all the boxes without spending what feels like half your workout on a foam roller?
In my experience, dynamic movement flows fit the bill.
Movement flows are simply the combination of a number of different movements, combined in a way that allows you to work on both mobility and stability where you need them, while simultaneously increasing your body temperature.
Let’s take this flow, for example.
In this short video, I lengthen the hamstrings, hip flexors and adductors. It mobilizes the ankle in dorsiflexion, (something we’re all missing), and allows the thoracic spine to move in and out of extension.
On the other side, we’re stabilizing the scapulae and surrounding muscles, as well as the anterior core. If you’re like almost everyone on Earth in 2018, your body is probably begging for you to wake these muscles up.
Complete a few quick reps and you’ll notice your body warming up and your joints moving more smoothly.
You can also check out this movement flow from my friend Eric Bach (video credit to yours truly).
Once again, he’s working on adductor, hip flexor and thoracic spine mobility, while also getting a great stretch in the hamstring.
The entire lower body must stabilize throughout with two separate single leg exercises.
Each of these, done for multiple reps, could have you sweating and prepped to move some serious weight in less than three minutes.
Keep the reps ‘snappy’ or add in a few explosive movements at the end to really ramp up the central nervous system. The best bet here is something like jump squats.
Or explosive push ups.
Now that you’ve moved the big rocks out of the way, it’s time to take aim at the more specific issues that may be holding you back on each specific movement pattern.
Let’s be clear. The word filler implies that these are less important and essentially just filling time between the important stuff.
And while the barbell movements may seem more important to you in the moment, these “fillers” will allow you to keep doing said barbell movements over the long haul; not having to constantly take time away from the gym to rehab injuries.
So, disregard the poorly planned name and focus on what’s important.
The best part, is that most of these drills can be completed during your rest periods if you add them between sets of the day’s main compound lift.
I’ll give Eric Cressey credit for this concept, but good trainers have been employing this for years; sometimes without even knowing it.
Let’s take a heavy strength set of bench press, for example. Everyone can relate to that. So you complete your light warm up sets of the empty barbell and maybe 95lbs, then you need to start taking some rest between sets.
What do you do during that rest period?
If you’re like most public gym goers, you’re either scrolling instagram or catching up on a few work emails. Replying to Mary from accounting isn’t exactly the best use of your limited time and mental energy in the gym.
There’s a better way to spend your rest periods. Like I said, you can extend your warm up here by working on your weaknesses and areas that are lacking mobility.
The key here is to stay away from anything that may hamper the big lift, as you’ll see outlined below.
- Low intensity mobility drill to assist the major lift.
Here are some examples of the most common movement limitations for each major lift.
- Squat: ankle dorsiflexion, hip flexion, thoracic extension, lat mobility
- Deadlift: hamstring extension, thoracic extension
- Bench Press: anterior hip extension, chest/pec mobility, thoracic rotation, thoracic extension
- Overhead Press: anterior hip extension, thoracic extension, lat mobility with arms overhead
So, if you’re working up to a common strength training rep scheme like 5×5 on squats, for example, here’s what your sets and reps may look like:
This gives you at least six opportunities to improve your mobility that’s specific to the movement pattern before you get to your working sets.
Once again, these drills are not meant to overtax your system between heavy sets. They’re meant to assist and improve the lift. Depending on the intensity of the working sets, it’s sometimes best to take the full rest period to just completely rest. You’ve finished your mobility work, you deserve it.
For example, if you find that lat mobility holds you back from completing front squats with ease and sometimes becomes your achilles heel on heavy sets, you could do this simple, effective and low intensity drill between each set.
You’re grooving a very similar pattern in a much less neurologically taxing position. Try to contract and pull against the band for 3-5 seconds, then relax, allowing the band to lengthen the lats.
Just make sure you lock in the ribcage, as it has a tendency to flare out on overhead mobility work, especially if you’re tight.
- Higher intensity stability drills that focuses on a different body part than the major lift.
Now we’re going to look at the other end of the spectrum in terms of fillers; higher intensity drills.
This is where things can get a little tricky, as you don’t want to complete a drill that will hamper your progress on the compound lift.
If you’re working on an upper body lift, think of pairing lower body and anterior core stability drills. If you’re performing a heavy lower body movement, add in upper body and anti-rotational core drills.
I also really like these drills as they provide focused, active recovery for clients, allowing them to rest, but not get stuck sitting around. So, a fat loss client can still lift heavy and not necessarily sit for a minute or two during their precious gym time.
For example, if you’re hitting deadlifts as your main lift, you don’t want to further fatigue the lower posterior chain, or the anterior core, as it could take away from your lifting potential.
Here, something like a mini band wall slide would be a great fit, focusing on the lower traps and rotator cuff.
However, if you’re hitting pull ups as your main movement for the day, you’d want to go more lower body heavy, staying away from the upper posterior chain and the anterior core, like this feet- elevated mini band psoas march.
If you’re looking to tighten up your training sessions due to a busy schedule, continue to hammer personal records and look great in the process, you really can’t afford to get beat up.
As you get older, injuries and nagging pains become more of the norm than the exception. So get your warm up done in an efficient manner and add fillers to shore up your weak spots.
You won’t need to spend more time in the gym and your results will skyrocket in the process.
Here’s to healthy, happy lifting!
About The Author
Gavin McHale is a former hockey player and skinny kid turned online strength coach and lifter. He helps clients rebuild the athletic body they used to have using no nonsense strength training methods.