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How to warm-up for Strength and Conditioning

In this article I’m going to explain why warming up (GPP – General Physical Preparation) is so important to your Strength & Conditioning. Why GPP should be structured differently for different workouts, how the end goal should always be kept in mind and also what not to do.
Let me get some frustrations out of the way first and then we’ll cover what NOT to do in a warm up.
Guys and girls, preparing the body for you to be able to workout at the correct intensity is very important. When you’re running late for a session and constantly missing the warm ups or having to do a shortened version you are:
1. Putting yourself at risk of injury;
2. Short changing the positive results that you are hoping for by working out.
With that out of the way let’s cover what NOT to do.
A warm up is just that, a warm up, smashing yourself with 20 mins to half an hour of cardio before a strength session will fatigue the muscles and reduce the amount of available energy necessary to work at the required effort. Complex and neurally challenging movements such as burpees, depth and box jumps, ring work such as dips and muscle ups again will fatigue you and overly tax the nervous system.
So in that case how do we structure the GPP at Joe’s Garage Gym?
Part 1 General Physical Prep: SMR
We start all sessions with 5-10 mins SMR work. The benefits of Self Myo-Fascial Release have really become widely published over the last few years. By breaking down adhesions between the muscle fibres and fascia, you will gain improvement in performance, range of motion and will reduce the risk of injury immeasurably. SMR also stimulates the nervous system and increases blood flow to the muscles involved. We use a couple of different tools at Joe’s Garage Gym:

1. The classic foam roller
2. Massage balls – both single tennis balls, golf balls and double tennis balls held together with strapping tape (mainly for thoracic mobilizations)
Mobilizations done at the start of a session are of a medium tempo and done 8-10 passes per muscle group.
• Foam Roller – Lats, Teres (major & minor), Hamstrings/Adductors; VMO/Adductors, front of Quad and Lateral Quad, ITB/TFL, Calves.
• Balls – External rotators of hip, Glutes, Traps, Rhomboids, Rotator Cuff
• Double taped balls – Thoracic
Part 2 General Physical Prep: Monostructural
As this is just to get the client/athlete loose, moving and warm, this part of the warm up is necessary depending on the following factors:
• Is it an early morning session i.e. the client/athlete has just got out of bed where he/she has been immobile for a lengthy period of time?
• Climatic …. is it cold out?
• Has the client/athlete just come from work or been in a sedentary position for most of the day?
If you are using this section, don’t overdo it. You only need 2-5 mins of low to medium intensity work, just get the blood pumping. We use short runs, skipping, rowing and agility ladders.

Joe's Garage Gym: Warming up, Rowing

Joe’s Garage Gym: Warming up, Rowing

Part 3 General Physical Prep: Workout specific
Focus on muscles and movements that will be used during the workout.
GPP for Strength training session – we will use Squat, Bend, Pull and Push patterns depending on the focus that day. These will be interspersed with general mobility drills such as striders, sit squats, samson stretch and scorpions. Primary exercises are then preceded by warm up sets of the exercise prescribed, these generally start at 50% of expected lift and go up to 80 or 90% depending on the lift and the number of sets prescribed. For example during a hypertrophy workout there will 2 or 3 warm up sets but maximal strength and 1RM testing requires up to 8 sets.

GPP for Conditioning/Freestyle session – again we will use: Squat, Bend, Pull and Push patterns depending on the focus that day. And again these will be interspersed with general mobility drills such as: striders, sit squats, samson stretch and scorpions. Usually we will do 2 to 3 rounds of 3-4 exercises at 50% effort. After this has been completed we will do 1 or 2 sets of 5 reps of each movement involved in the exercise, this is not just to cue and correct technique but it primes the neural pathways for what we are about to do.
GPP for Cardio session – We focus on 3 main disciplines during our Cardio sessions: running, rowing and skipping.
• Running workouts – foot speed drills, skip drills, knee drives, bounding, start drills
• Rowing workouts – Rowing technique, pull and drive breakdown drills, wall squats, chin ups and lumbar mobilizations
• Skipping workouts – toe jumps, skipping timing drills, push and pull patterns, wrist mobilizations.
GPP for Olympic Weightlifting session – The main areas we focus on here are the hip complex, the thoracic region and shoulder complex, the wrists and elbows.
This is done with: striders, sit squats, dislocates, lying iron cross, scorpions, wrist and elbow rotations. Once we have done the mobilizations we move onto lifting progressions using a dowel rod or technique bar, the progressions we do are determined by the lifts we are doing that session i.e. snatch breakdown and progressions or clean and jerk breakdown and progressions.
Finally, a word on static stretching and traditional slow (painful) SMR. They do definitely have a place but save your heavy, slow SMR sessions and your long static stretches for the end of the session or a separate session in its own right. You will get much more long term benefit from it this way ….. I find SMR is great to do in front of the telly of a nighttime.
If you do have a problem area you can use slow SMR and static stretches before or during your session as well but otherwise it is not necessary.
So there you have it, a warm up for every occasion, so to speak.
Joe Bonington
Head Coach, Joe’s Garage Gym

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