14 Exercise Total Body Warm-Up Routine

Motion

Before the workout, there is a warm-up.  

Warm-ups are an INCREDIBLE 15-20 minutes to make mobility gains, nourish joints, rep out isolated movements/activation drills, playfully engage in movement sequence or explore other movements that peak one’s curiosity.  

I used to dread warming up before workouts, as most people probably do.  

Warming up seemed like a barrier to the productive section of the workout.  

A period of time where I’d swing my arms around a little bit, bounce on your toes, a few neck rolls, get my hype playlist dialed in and throw a few shadow punches.

This used to be me.  

I’d drudge through a smattering of hand-selected, mindless dynamic stretches, mini band walks to “wake up” the glutes, and finish strong by mobilizing the ankles and T-Spine.  

I elevated my heart rate, initiated a sweat and feel focused, so the warm-up boxes must all have checkmarks ✅, right?  

In my mind, the answer to that question was, “Boxes check, good to go.  Moving on to the sexy part of the workout.  Exertion.”

Re-Establish the Purpose of the Warm-Up

People generally think of warm-ups as a stimulus to awaken and prime the body for more aggressive exercise, be it resistance training or cardio conditioning.  

This isn’t the wrong way to view things by any means.  Elevating the heart rate and increased body temperature is still important.

But the warm-up can serve as a vehicle to make incremental (valuable) gains in other areas.  Mobility, movement transitions, balance, coordination, etc.  

The problem, rather a common perception, is that investing time in a progressive warm-up seems like a waste of time.  

No muscle pump?  It must be a waste of time.

Lungs not burning?  Surely time is being wasted.

“Let’s get this over boring-ass sh*t over with so I can start making my gaaaiiinnnzzzz”.

For clarification, “Gainz” generally describes the usuals for most people:

  •  Fat loss 
  •  Muscle or strength gain
  •  Losing weight 
  •  General fitness improvement
  •  Big bouncing pecs, softball-sized biceps, and curvy butts, etc. 

I think we can do better with our pre-workout warm-up routines. 

We can do this by integrating joint mobility training, moving limbs through disadvantaged or strict patterns of motion, movement exploration/play, flow sequencing, transitions, etc.  

Today, it’s really hard to see where my warm-up stops and the workout begins.

The days of twirling arm and leg swings are long gone.  I’ve traded them for slow and controlled mobility drills, where I attempt to express the true joint range of motion I have ownership over, and fighting to earn and expand that gradually.

Rather than flailing my arms around in circles for 10 reps and calling it good, I’ll crush a tennis ball and draw the largest possible circle with my fist (from front to back) doing my best to stay avoid moving body parts to draw that circle.   

These mobility drills involve articulating joints through a maximum controlled range motion.  It’s simple, but not easy.  Each repetition is painfully slow.  You can find a lot of these drills on my YouTube page.  

Functional Range Conditioning refers to these joint nourishing exercises as CARs (controlled articular rotations).  

I also like to get on the floor and move.  

Twisting, turning, reaching, flexing/extending, squatting, lunging, blending pushing movements and rotation movements, crawling, changing levels, tossing, throwing, etc.

5-10 minutes are allocated to getting lost in bodyweight-based groundwork.

Some workouts, I’ll include a wood plyo box or other pieces of equipment, but moving with bodyweight through an open space remains the foundation.

Here are a few other things I like to practice during the warm-up:

  • Mobility techniques
    • Kinstretch
    • Gymnastics drills
    • Spinal Waves
    • Wood dowel training 
  • Improvised ground-based movement
  • Exploring new exercises, methods, and techniques
    • Macebell training
    • Weck Method drills (Coiling, RMT rope drills, etc)
    • Hybrid kettelbell exercises
      • Turkish Get Up variations
      • Swing variations
      • Hand-to-hand exercises 
    • New Bodyweight Movements
      • Sissy Squats
      • Dragon Squats
      • Task-Based Challenges
      • Legless Rope Climbs
      • Parallette Bar drills 

Total Body Pre-Workout Preparation

A while back, I uploaded a YouTube video demonstrating 14 different warm-up exercises to prepare the entire body for a workout. 

Here is the video…

Exercise order:

1.  Shoulder CARs

2.  Spine CARs

3.  Hip CARs

4.  Dowel Assisted Sissy Squats

5.  90/90 Series (transfers, lift offs, hovers, etc)

6.  Prone Swimmers Hovers

7.  Bodyweight Squats

8.  Bodyweight Lunges

9.  Bodyweight Push-Ups

10.  Side Kick Throughs

11.  Crab Reach

12.  Back Bridge

13.  Scorpion Reach

14.  Cossack Squat w/ Horse Stance Pause

Take notice of all of the joint articulations, slow tempo movement of arms and legs through challenging patterns, bodyweight exercises and movement combinations. 

It’s all there. 

Basic joint mobility work, ground-based conditioning, and exploratory movement training can really have a significant impact on your movement capacity, joint health, and performance.  

In time, movements that once plagued you or simply felt impossible, begin to feel very achievable.  Joints feel buttery.  Your body is changing.  Adapting to the stimulus. 

If you’re training 4-5 days per week, sectioning off 15-20 minutes to warm up with a few of the exercises featured in the video can add 60+ minutes of unique training to your regularly scheduled workout regimen. 

This adds up.  

Daily, the full-body approach to warming up is my personal preference.  Even if the day’s workout is mostly upper body, I still deliver a stimulus to the hips, knees and ankle joints.  

Conducting total body maintenance has made my body feel better at 35 years old then I did when I was supposedly at my “peak physical condition” in college.  

Nothing against people who opt for upper and lower body splits, but I prefer a daily micro-dose of joint articulations and full range movement.  

Find what works best for you.

It might not be what works best for me… and that is ok.  

How long should a warm-up be?

Working through 14 exercises generally takes 15-20 minutes, depending on reps and tempo per exercise.    

Should it always take 15-20 minutes?  

No.  Starting out, expect it to take longer because you won’t know what the hell you’re doing.  

Time will decrease as you become more familiar and waste less time setting up.      

All this being said, the more volume with most of these exercises, the merrier.  

How many reps per exercise?

In the video, I demonstrate 2-3 reps per exercise.  

I reduced the reps to keep the video moving along and lower the boredom factor.  Plus, uploading a 20+ minute video to YouTube can be full of problems.

Increase the reps to 8-10 per side for each exercise. 

Progress through all 14 exercises, one after the other, non-stop until the end. 

Of course, pause and rest as needed, but don’t waste too much time.  

Keep the show moving. 

Reminder… 

This warm-up shows 14 different exercises.  

Only 14.  There’s a mountain of other effective warm-up exercises not shown in this video.  

I simply wanted to share an example of a total body warm-up routine. 

There are many other incredible mobility drills, activations, locomotion exercises and ground-based movements not included in the video.

A total body warm-up can be organized a thousand different ways.  

Should all warm-ups look like this?

They don’t have to.  

Some days my pre-workout build-up consists of jumping rope for a few minutes paired up with crawling.  Other days I’m in the mood for ground flow, swinging kettlebells, rolling around on the floor, wall assisted handstands, etc.  

I like to mix it up.  

It doesn’t always follow this 14 exercise recipe.

On days where I am engaging in a long slow cardio session, I’ll climb on my air bike and ride.  No warm-up at all.  

The message of this post is to audit your current warm-up routine and observe if you’re breezing through a below-average pre-workout warm routine.  

Are you undervaluing warm-up time?  Is there room for improvement?

I’d bet there is.  

I used to overlook my warm-ups, and I’d guess a lot are doing the same.  

Time is a valuable commodity and goal achievement is important.  

Warming up with greater purpose can help to accelerate the time it takes to reach physical goals, keep your body feeling good and leverage your time in the gym.     

 

 

Cheers to getting after the warm-up, 

Kyle 

 

Warm Up Makeover: “Activation” w/ Mini Band Walks and Wall Slides

Quick Tips

Wasn’t sure what to entertain you with out of the gates, so Killers it is…

The warm up is a crucial part of the workout, so stop treating it like it’s not. 🙂

There are many people who still skip warm ups prior to intense weight training, and if they do warm up, it involves a few neck rolls, arm swings and knuckle cracks.  You know who you are, no need to point fingers.

I have touched on the importance of the warm up’s importance leading into training session in the past, and you can find those older posts here:

Today’s tips are about activation.  Activation is the equivalent of flipping the power switch to muscles that otherwise lay dormant throughout the day, or have been found to be weak.  Again, think about the concept of activation before the workout as “turning on your muscles”.

Just as the work-portion of the workout is often divided up into different sections (power, strength, cardio development), so is the warm-up.  I typically place activation after my foam rolling/lacrosse ball, static stretching and mobility work.  Taking my joints through a range of motion using targeted mobility drills prior to activating muscles like my glutes and my shoulders.

So, the order would look something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 6.27.35 AM

Activation improved my training and the training of my clients.  Ironically, activation exercises might make you more sore than the actual strength training or cardio work.  Flipping the switch on dormant muscles

Activation in the warm up represents the first few drills where the muscles are moving against light resistance prior to experiencing increased loading during dedicated power or strength exercises.

Foam rolling changes density and relieves restrictions (trigger points, muscle lesions, etc), static stretching changes the length of the muscles after foam rolling, mobility drills take joints through a range of motion while delivering essential nutrients and lubrication to the joint, while activation “wakes up” inhibited muscles for the workout and a quick correction of identified weakness.

Inhibited muscle

A little definition on “inhibited”, straight from the almighty Google.

I may have made this slightly more complicated than you would have liked, but trust me, the two activation drills that I am about to describe are both simple and extremely effective.  They are well worth your time investment.

The first time that you add these two drills to your training, you’ll notice a difference immediately.

You're gonna like the way you look guy

Seriously though, you gonna feel great, I guarantee it.

Few things in life are guaranteed (except for suits from Men’s Wearhouse), but I guarantee that you’ll feel great after executing these two activation drills.  It might be an “aha” moment (as it was for me)that muscles are can become weak without us being aware of it.  Well, now that you read that sentence, you are consciously aware of it.  See how that works?  🙂

—>  Mini Band Walks

Mini band walks involve positioning a small rubber band around the outside of the tops of your knees, shins or ankles in an effort to wake up the muscles that encapsulate your powerful hips, particularly the glute medius.  The band is positioned in the three different positions based on your ability to exhibit proper technique during the drill.  The lower the band moves on the legs, the more difficult the drill becomes.  Placing the band above the knee would be easiest, followed by around the shin and finally around the ankle would be most difficult.  I have performed this drill with knees flexed (athletic stance) and stiff-legged (like Herman Munster), both versions work well.  Avoid excessive shifting of bodyweight during the reach of the lead leg and the resist of the trailing leg.  Simulate a full glass of water balancing on your head as you move laterally.

Movement Cues:  

  • Walk lightly and resist the pull of the band on the trailing leg/foot.  
  • Keep toes pointed straight ahead.
  • Keep weight on the mid-foot and heel.
  • Walk about 10 yards in one direction, then 10 yards back.
  • If movement form breaks, stop.  Nothing good happens by forcing crappy movement in search of a muscular burn.
  • ***  Chances are quite high that if your form broke down during your first attempt, you need to decrease the band tension (aka:  use a lighter band)

—>  Wall Slides

If you really want to feel bad about the fact that you have ignored your slouching upper body posture, do some wall slides.  For some of you, just getting yourself into the starting position will be a challenge.  Years of slumping at a desk has cut up to you, and you may be moving toward becoming a hunchback.  No offense.  However, wall slides can provide a simple fix (along with plenty of pulling movements).  Wall slides, much like mini band walks, should be a staple in everyone’s training regimen.  Wall slides will tax the external rotators along with the scapular (shoulder blade) retractors and depressors.  Addressing weak or inhibited scapular retractors and depressors with a few sets of wall slides throughout the week will do wonders for injury prevention and performance.

Enough jargon!  Watch the video a couple of times, check out the coaching cues and do them for yourself.

Movement Cues:

  • Place heels about 8-10 inches from the wall that you’re pressed against.
  • Body contact points on the wall are:  tailbone, mid/high back, elbows/forearms/backs of hands, head.
  • Actively press your forearms against the wall.
  • Imagine attempting to “sand the hair” off of your forearms as you reach overhead and return back to the starting position.
  • Only go through a range of motion that you can maintain the contact points listed above.
  • Breathe.  Don’t forget to breathe.
  • Get 8-10 reps, slow and controlled throughout the movement.
  • Breathe.
  • Breathe.
  • Did I say… breathe?

Closing Thoughts

Wall slides will make just about everyone sore.  Welcome to the world of posture and weak/inhibited muscles.  They are a million dollar exercise if I do say so myself.  I have seen tough guys, soccer moms, pro athletes and everyone in between be humbled by wall slides.  Just getting into position can be mind-boggling for some people.  Reason?  They are becoming a product of their daily posture.  A consistent daily dose of wall slides would be a great addition to just about everyone on the planet.

I have to admit that during my college athletic years, we hardly warmed up.  I mean, we got the blood circulating by doing something before each workout, but nothing close to the methods that I describe above.  I can’t say that warming up with mini band walks and wall slides would have helped me score more goals, play better defense or winning more games, but I would have definitely felt some kind of improvement.  No doubt about that.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

My first attempt at warming up with lateral (sideways) mini band walks left my hips sore as hell.  Years of hockey, where the hips are the dominating producers of force, and I perform 10 yards (down and back) of mini band walks and my hips were almost too tender to touch in the days following.  Unreal.  It was a major indicator that I was weak in this area.  Yikes.

My warm ups today are brutally simple.  They address both upper and lower extremities all in one shot.  I prefer to warm up this way, with the total body approach.  You’ll notice that some professionals will suggest tailoring the warm up to the specific demands of the day’s workout (and this works fine also), but I find that whipping through a total body warm up gets me engaged and leaves me feeling prepared.  I enjoy leaving the warm up with sweat on my shirt.

Personal preference.

Don’t waste time.  Buy a mini band (or two) and find a flat open space on a wall.  Do it.

The best advice I can ever give someone who reads anything on this blog is to get off your butt and try it.  Get active.  Get engaged.

What’s the worst that is going to happen?

 

Cheers to walking like a duck and vertical snow angels!

KG

Warming Up w/ Deep Squats is Sexy

Quick Tips

The ability to drop your butt low to the ground like an infant while they play with their toys is a skill worth maintaining throughout life.

It doesn’t have a be the first thing you think about upon waking in the morning, but you should consider it regularly.

On my Facebook page yesterday, I posted about the need to work on your ability to lift heavy objects from a resting position on the ground surface to a vertical locked out position.  The backside muscles of the body, particularly the butt and hamstring muscles tend to become long and weak as we continue to sit throughout life.

This can cause a whole host of problems down the road, especially when people attempt grunt lift an awkward object and feel that horrible pop in their lower back.  Instant nagging back pain and a lifetime of fighting off the chronic pain of an injury like that.  Back pain is the worst.

I won’t say that a back injury like that is completely avoidable, but I think that really smart guys like Gray Cook (among others) have started to put together the puzzle pieces aid in  solving this riddle.  Injuries like this seem to be highly preventable, or at least there are daily drills that we can perform to help bulletproof out bodies against unnecessary injuries.

One of the patterns that people need to be assessing on themselves initially is the ability to squat deep.  Yes, a simple squat that exhibits the ability to drop your butt low with a somewhat vertical upper body posture.  I say somewhat because being completely upright with your upper body isn’t completely necessary, however being bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame is also undesirable.

Flat back.  We’ll say a mostly vertical flat back is how I want your upper body to be situated, with shoulder blades tucked down and back. Eyes forward.

A few years ago… 

… I used simple cues with my hockey athletes get them into position verbally without getting hands on.  One of those cues was, “Show me your logo on your shirt”.  Once they had reached an end range of motion in their squat (whatever depth that was), I simply requested to see their logo on their t-shirt.  For most, this brought the chest up, shoulders back.

The athletes that struggled to execute or maintain this position once I cued it gave me  valuable information (without words) that “something” was preventing them from achieving a comfortable squat.

Who cares about hockey players, what does this mean for me? Me? Me?

Well…

The ability for the average person to execute a simple bodyweight squat is important.  

Maybe the better statement is:

The inability of a person to execute a proper bodyweight squat might be reason for some concern.

Can you squat?  How deep? Test it on yourself right now using this starting position:

1)  Get barefoot w/ toes pointing forward.

2)  Position feet shoulder width apart ( or maybe a inside of feet just outside of shoulder width).

3)  Place hands together at chest height in prayer position or behind head prisoner style.

4)  Squat.  (don’t over think this… just squat)

*  If you don’t know what a squat looks like, Google or YouTube it.

5)  Assess.

Elaborating on your self-assessment…

–  How did it feel?

–  How low did you get (depth)?

–  Did you upper body fold over at any point as you got lower to the ground?

–  Did you knees cave in?  Wobble?

–  Did you heels lift off of the floor as you got deeper into the squat?

–  Did you feel a “locking” sensation in your mid-back?

*** Was your breathing labored or did you hold your breath at any point during the motion?

Ask yourself these simple questions.  I get tired of complicated advice, and I think this is about as simple as I can make it for you.

If you can, squat in front of a mirror or use your smartphone to video yourself.  Visual feedback is the greatest.  If you use your smartphone, you many want to delete it shortly afterward to avoid any sort of questioning or embarrassment from friends or family.

In a weird way, it’s cool to identify problems with your squat, or any other movement (raising arms, turning head).  Problems mean that I can dish out some simple solutions (saved for a later post) and also that you may have saved yourself from experiencing something tragic injury-wise.  Uncovering faulty movement also gives you something to focus on during your workouts.

In recent years, the workout has evolved tremendously.  It’s not just about exerting yourself and putting forth a big effort to lose some fat.  Professionals are throwing out solutions to help people move better, which helps maintain a pain-free life of movement.  This is priceless.

And don’t worry, poor squatting technique can be fixed.

In my own training…

I work on the squat pattern almost daily.  My mobility is pretty solid, but as you may or may not see in the video demonstration, when my left arm extends overhead, I strain a bit.  Something funky is going on here.  This isn’t just random stiffness that I should ignore.

Overhead Squatting in the Warm Up

Trust me, I am working on fixing it, but it is important for me to point out movement flaws that I have so that:

A)  You know that we are ALL human and this stuff happens (no one is immortal).

B)  You can grab on to some tips or tricks on how I fixed my own issues in order to fix yours.

Bottomline:  Pay attention to you ability to squat, it will pay you back tenfold throughout life.

Cheers on a cold day in Wisconsin…

KG