Revisit Your Warm-Up: Optimizing for the Strength Athlete

Let's flash back to spring 2005, my junior year of softball, and I’m at Reservoir park in Goodyear Heights of Akron Ohio, prepping for softball practice. If you played high school softball or baseball, my warm-up training session might look familiar to you:

  • 5 minute jog around the outfield
  • Full body 15 second static stretches (counted as a group)
  • Specific throwing mechanic drills, with progressive distance overload for 15 minutes
  • Competition specific drills and into practice

To compare the structured warm-up of a dozen teenage girls to some of the pre-lift rituals I see in advanced or even elite athletes, 16 year old Meg was a more diligent and primed athlete.

The benefits of an effective warm-up in any athlete can transfer to faster muscle contraction, increase blood flow to muscles, improved psychological preparedness for performance, and improvements in rate of force and reaction time. 

Yet still, many of us walk into the gym, skip any general warm-up, and load plates straight on the barbell. 

Let’s Change That:
Structuring a warmup for competition or retesting training sessions for the strength athlete should aim to maximize performance. Pre-training warm-ups should set out to prime the athlete for performance, but also incorporate movements that contribute to short, medium, and long term athletic goals. 

A 10-20 minute daily warm-up can make up a significant portion of training time over multiple training cycles. Effective planning can set a lifter up to chip away at issues and weaknesses, without sacrificing energy or inducing fatigue.

RAMP Your Warm-Up:
R - RAISE the heart rate
A - ACTIVATE key muscle groups and movement patterns
M - MOBILIZE with dynamic exercises to enhance movement capacities and keep heart rate elevated
P - POTENTIATE increase specificity and then intensity of sport (opportunity to work on form, mental cues, psychological preparedness)

My Warm-Up for a Heavy Single:
Session Performance Goal: Squat @ 9.5RPE
Medium - Long Term Goal: Strengthen glute medius to fix knee valgus during heavy squat sessions
 


RAISE

  • 5 Sun Salutations
  • 5 mins on airdyne

ACTIVATE + MOBILIZE

  • Goddess pose/3rd world squat pose, to toe touch x 5
  • Dynamic hip circle walk (activating the glute medius)
  • Air squat with hip circle (external rotation exercises)
  • 10x Air Squat (no hip circle)

POTENTIATE

  • 10 Reps @ barbell
  • 5 reps @ 95lbs
  • 3 reps @ 185lbs
  • 1 rep @ 225lbs
  • 1 rep @ 250lbs
  • 1 rep @ 275lbs
  • 1 rep @ 290lbs +


While my softball warm-up may seem like common sense, it’s important to break down the components and structure of an effective warm-up for the strength athlete and think about what improvements we can make to our daily pre-lift rituals to increase preparedness, optimize performance, and chip away at short, medium, and long term goals. 

 

Interested in getting more programming and coaching questions answered? Check out some of our fully customized 12-Week Programs.

Read the study that furthermore explains the warm-up resisted, by Ian Jeffreys.