Just because your body is warm doesn't mean you're ready for a demanding workout. Anyone can break a sweat from a five-minute jog and a couple of light weight sets, but your muscles may not be properly primed, leaving you vulnerable to injury.
Instead of focusing on heart rate, target the shoulders and hips. For most of us, these areas lack sufficient mobility, and we wind up compensating and using other muscle groups to achieve an ideal range of motion while lifting. This isn't just inefficient, it's dangerous. The warm-up below will lubricate the shoulders and hips, and dynamically stretch the muscles crossing each joint to prevent injury and recruit the right muscles. What's more, it will also fire up the muscles surrounding the elbows and knees, which are prisoners to the shoulders and hips.
The moves shouldn't take longer than 10 minutes, and don't be alarmed if you're not dripping sweat. It's good to feel warm and ready, but what's most important is that your joints are working well, and your central nervous system is cued for action. Put that treadmill warm-up on pause, and put this prep into action before any strength workout.
Stand tall, and raise your right knee up and turn it out to the side. Grab and pull your shin up, attempting to make it parallel to the floor. Lower the leg and step forward, then repeat on the left side. Continue over a 30-foot stretch.
Lunge forward on your right foot, and, keeping hips down, lower to touch the ground with your left hand, using your right elbow to push the right knee out. Repeat on the left side, and continue alternating legs over a 30-foot stretch.
Stand holding a PVC pipe, dowel stick, broomstick, or a low-weight bar (under 10 pounds) with a wide grip in front of you. Maintaining straight arms, bring the bar over your head, then behind your back until it touches your glutes. Once this gets easier, move the hands in one finger-width and continue. Perform one set of 15 reps. (If this feels too demanding, perform the exercise with a band.)
Stand with your back against a wall, and heels, butt, elbows, wrists, fingers, shoulders, upper back, and head all in contact with the surface. Bring arms to goalpost position, a 90-degree bend in elbows. Slide arms up wall, maintaining contact throughout, until they're straight overhead. If arms come off the wall, move feet six inches away from wall, and try it again. Do one set of 20 slides.
Foam rolling decreases tension, loosens tight muscles and connective fascia, and promotes greater blood flow and circulation. Spend one minute rolling each of the major muscle groups — the quads, lats, hip flexors, and glutes.
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