4 Warm Up Exercises You’re Not Doing (But Should Be)

These unusual moves can save time and activate underused muscles.

Let’s face it, most of you don’t like warming up.

You’d rather skip the warm up entirely so you and the barbell can get busy. And when you haven’t got all the time in the world to train, you’re more likely to cut the parts of your training you don’t like. Oftentimes, that’s warm ups, cardio, and leg day.

However, the benefits of a good warm up are too good to ignore:

  •       Increase your body temperature to get your body ready to move
  •       Delivers valuable blood flow and oxygen to muscles
  •       Helps get you mentally prepared to train
  •       Promotes the release of synovial fluid in your joints to get them ready to lift
  •       With your muscles warmer, you’re less likely to get injured

Now you’ve been reminded of the benefits of warming up, check out these four underrated warm up exercises I collected from some experienced coaches who know a thing or two. 

Bo Babenko, DPT

The Scorpion

The Scorpion is a face down, rotational stretch mainly targeting the hips and back, with a little bonus shoulder mobility thrown in.

It’s opening up a “kinetic chain” (aka primal movement chain) that often gets ignored. It is good because it’s aimed at undoing the most common positions, you get stuck in during your day.

It’s a good move for all, except maybe folks who are “extension intolerant” or “hyper mobile”. There are some simple tests any physio should be able to take you through to ensure your spine will benefit from this kind of motion.

Do 3 sets of 10 (alternating) throughout the warm up period for best results.

[The scorpion is part of Dr. Babenko’s favorite 5-minute mobility routine]

Robbie Bagby, MS, CSCS

Leg abducted T-spine Rotation

This movement provides lengthening of the adductor muscles while providing the body with a good dose of thoracic spine rotation. This is good for most people, except for someone who has an abundance of T-spine mobility.

This movement locks the hips in place so the movement can come through the upper back and not the lumbar.

It also provides a passive stretch on the adductors which can be very effective to competitive and everyday athletes.

Start in a quadruped position with the knees on a mat. Extend one leg directly to the side while keeping the opposite knee on the pad. Be sure the sole of the foot on the extended leg is flat and facing forward.

Hips should be level with the ground. Without moving the hips, reach one hand up to the ceiling as you rotate through your upper back/torso. Place hand back on the ground before reaching opposite hand up to the ceiling.

Watch your hand throughout the movement to get a little cervical rotation also. Repeat for 6-8reps on each arm before switching legs and repeating rotations. 

This is best used as a warm-up exercise or an active recovery exercise between strength exercises.

[Related: 4 great moves to improve your thoracic mobility]

Shane McLean, CPT

Six-Point Rocking

The six-point rock gets its name from having six points of contact on the ground from the toes, knees and hands.  It may look silly but it’s a fantastic warm up exercise for 2 reasons.

  1. It’s a ground-based squat.  This simulates a squat, which makes it a great move before you squat or deadlift. And if you have trouble getting your hips to your heels or you’re losing neutral spine, it pays to spend extra time on hip mobility before squatting or deadlifting.
  2. You’re mobilizing your shoulders and hips simultaneously Think of the amount of movements that require the hips and shoulders moving at the same time. Running and Olympic lifts come to mind.

It’s been a staple in my and my clients’ warm ups ever since I discovered this from Original Strength. It’s a great move for most people except for those who have muscular legs, because they will not get full range of motion on the rock back.

Doing these for 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps in your warm up will do the trick.

 [Related: How 7 elite powerlifters and weightlifters warm up for squats]

Travis Pollen, Personal Trainer and PhD Candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences

Bench Thoracic Spine Mobilization

This move is great for unlocking the upper back. It allows for more freedom of movement through the thoracic spine and shoulders, making it an ideal precursor to overhead pressing.

The setup is simple. Kneel down next to a bench and place your elbows on the bench and hands behind your head.

To bias thoracic spine extension in this position, arch your upper back slightly (think more of yoga cow position). To bias the latissimus dorsi, round your upper back slightly (think more of a yoga cat position).

To get the most out of the stretch, you can either hold the position for 30-60 seconds or gently rock in and out of it 10-20 times, breathing deeply all the while.

[That’s one of our 4 moves for a bulletproof rotator cuff]

Wrapping up

These four warm up exercises will get your body ready to crush your squats, presses and deadlifts. They’re unusual, sure, but don’t worry about all the strange looks you get. They’ll be jealous when they see your progress.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image via John Wollwerth/Shutterstock

Shane McLean

Shane McLean

Shane McLean is a Certified Personal Trainer who’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from the general population client all the way to ex-Navy seals and college athletes.

Shane is a big believer in seeing exercise as a gift for the body and never a punishment — exercise should be as enjoyable as possible and never just a “work” out.

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