By Greg Robins
Movement preparation, or “warming-up” is an essential component to any training session. Many strength coaches, athletes, and gym-goers utilize this time for one sole purpose: to better prepare the body for the task at hand (training). While this is an obvious reason to apply a warm-up, it can be much more beneficial to the training program as a whole when utilized correctly.
Movement preparation is the perfect opportunity not only to prime the body for training, but also to work on improving movement quality as a whole. Unfortunately, many warm up protocols fall short in this area. Unfortunately, warming up seems to get a “bad rep”, especially amongst strength athletes. Furthermore, many strength coaches seem to view the warm-up as necessary, but not necessarily a component that needs to be individualized past the premise of an activity to “prime” and elevate the core temperature of the body.
The same 15 minutes that you take now to start a training session, either for yourself, or your athletes can become a priceless tool in helping you train better, and produce better results; regardless of whether you’re a team sport athlete, strength athlete, or just a weekend warrior. So if you’re going to put the time in anyway, you might as well get more from it, right?
The following warm-up is a collection of my favorite ten general movement preparation exercises, and a brief look into why I like them. For more information behind the reasoning and benefits of these drills make sure to check out my article appearing in the members section later this month.
Let me begin by making a few general assumptions, and I hope in doing so I avoid making an ass out of you and me. If you are reading this article you most likely fit into one of the following:
1) You are an athlete
2) You train regularly either for sport performance, strength gains or for strength sport
3) You coach athletes
4) You are alive and breathing
If you fit into one of these categories then you will benefit from these drills. If you fit into one of the first three categories I can make another assumption and say that you are probably operating in an “extended” posture (there are always exceptions to anything).
Seriously though, athletes, lifters, and coaches spend a lot of time on their feet. Additionally, the demands of sport and the advantageous positions we put ourselves in to excel at sports, and lifting, will cause us to adopt an extended posture. This is totally fine.
Furthermore, the body is prone to adopting certain postures based solely on the anatomy we all share. In short, certain inherent asymmetries will cause us to fall into distinct patterns just by breathing, standing, and moving around. To take it a step further, we operate in a world where we have made many daily activities easier based on these patterns; engraining them further. Again, this is all fine.
All these little exaggerations in our movements, tendencies, and postures won’t cause too many problems, for the most part. Yet, recurring injuries happen again and again in certain populations. Lifters suffer from shoulder and low back pain, basketball players suffer from knee pain, baseball players from elbow pain, etc.
Problems arise when we couple our inherent asymmetries with activities that are taken to the extreme. Strength athletes move thousands of pounds in heavily extended positions. Baseball players perform thousands of throws on the same side. Even the mail carrier holds her bag of envelopes on the same side every day. See what I’m getting at?
In order to stay healthy, we need to do what we can to combat all the time we spend in one extreme. This is where your movement prep can do wonders for correcting your positioning, and helping you become aware of more advantageous positions.
These activities will not take away from an athlete’s ability to perform at a high level. Or to say, they will not cause him or her to lose their ability to move in the extreme positions that make them successful. Working to get a lifter less extended will not make him lose strength, nor will keep a pitcher from throwing harder, or a sprinter from running faster. To think these low level drills will completely over-turn the high intensity movements an athlete performs is asinine. What it will do is help counteract any negative result from continued repetition in not so normal circumstances for our bodies. If we can play longer, train harder, and move better it’s all a plus. That is what a smart movement prep routine can do.
With all that said, here are ten drills that sequenced together make a solid warm-up for most athletes and lifters alike. Everyone is different, and an ideal plan would be individualized. This one should cover most of the bases for the majority of people reading this today.
1. 90/90 Supine Belly Breathing With Hip Lift
A great lesson I have learned during my time at Cressey Performance is that a good movement prep scheme will move from proximal to distal. I like to begin the sequence with this breathing drill that helps turn on the abdominals, promote better breathing and reposition our pelvis.
2. T-Spine Extensions On Bench
This is a great drill to help people with stiff lats achieve more upper back extension.
3. Dead Bugs w/ Full Exhalations
When performed correctly this is a nice way of integrating components of the first two drills and teaching awareness of how to move extremities around a more neutral spine and pelvis.
4. Split Stance Kneeling Adductor Mobilizations
Hip mobility is essential in any good movement prep and I especially like this one as it attacks the adductors and teaches us to move while maintaining a solid torso and head positioning.
5. Rocking Ankle Mobilizations
Many of the lifters and athletes I have worked with present with anterior knee pain. This ankle mobility drill is the friendliest for increasing dorsi-flexion while also not putting any sheer stress on the knee joint.
6. Wall Hip Flexor Mobilizations
I like this drill for attacking the hip flexors. Having the knee bent also ensures we work to hit the rectus femoris as it crosses both the hip and knee joint.
7. Glute Wall March ISO Hold
I prefer this glute activation drill mainly because it also teaches you get extension from the hip and knee with out extending the low back.
8. Back To Wall Shoulder Flexion
Moving overhead without extending is something I bet 90% of us can’t do well. While having a strong and stiff back is important, it can cause a lot of issues when the opposite side is not equally as stiff. To attack a question I posed earlier: stiffness is not a bad thing. In fact, it is better to be stiff than lax in many cases. However, relative stiffness is key in keeping you healthy and making you stronger. This drill teaches us to move overhead while keeping the rib cage down, and in turn using anterior core strength to keep us out of a gross extension pattern.
9. Forearm Wall Slide With Shrug
When we adopt a heavily extended posture we have lats that are so stiff they hold our scaps “back and down” all the time. Think about it, we cue ourselves to be back and down all the time. The problem here is that when go to move overhead the scaps stay down, and the head of the humerus is no longer centered within the socket. What should happen is that the scaps should be able to upwardly rotate with the humerus. This drill will promote the proper sequencing to make that happen.
10. Alternating Lateral Lunge Walk With Overhead Reach
This would be my preferred drill for integrating components of everything above at the same time.
Greg Robins is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. Greg has worked with clientele ranging from general population to professional athletes. His unique experience in many different aspects of fitness, strength training, and athletic preparation have helped him become an unbiased authority on all things fitness and performance related. Outside of coaching Greg is a former collegiate baseball player, active member of the MA ARMY National Guard, and enjoys power lifting. Website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter