There are many reasons to warm-up before you start your exercise routine but the main benefit is injury prevention. By warming-up you are forcing blood to the area you are going to exercise and this increased blood flow / circulation will help lower the chance of a muscle pull or joint damage as well as “prime” your muscles for stronger lifts.
FULL BODY WARM-UP
A full body warm-up would be recommended for most workouts, especially workouts that involve more compound (multi-joint) movements. When doing a full body warm-up you want to make sure you are targeting all the major joints such as your shoulders, knees and hips as well as your spine. Basic movements such as air squats, arm circles & jumping jacks will work well while more advanced warm-ups can be used as you become more specific about your lifts.
BODY PART WARM-UP
Warming-up specific areas of your body is useful when performing lifts such as squats and deadlifts. Usually these warm-up exercises will consist of movements that work on increasing your range of motion for the main joints/muscles that are being used during the lift. For example, before you begin squats you want to make sure you are performing exercises to warm-up the areas around your lower back, shoulders, hips, and knees.
Static stretching can be done anytime and is always recommended if you desire to increase your overall flexibility & range of motion. Static stretching usually consists of holds that last up to 30+ seconds to help increase mobility while promoting proper blood flow and circulation as well. When static stretching the focus should always be on increasing your range of motion each time you perform them. If you want to be able to do a split (If you're into that kind of thing) then practicing them and pushing further into them each time your stretch will be the best way to get there.
Dynamic stretching is when you have continuous movement during a stretch, unlike the “hold” used in static stretching. Static stretching may decrease tension in the muscle needed for max effort during lifts if done immediately before a lift. Dynamic stretching helps you to warm-up the muscles involved without losing the required tension. Dynamic stretches may also slightly increase your range of motion and are usually done for a set amount of reps or a time of 30+ seconds. Dynamic stretching is recommended before most, if not all workouts.
Full body workouts are a great way to approach strength training whether you are a beginner or an advanced athlete. They maximize output while spending less time in the gym because they involve bigger compound movements. You can also add in isolation exercises and accessory work when needed depending on your goals. This type of training does not necessarily have to work every single muscle in each workout. You can split your workout into upper and lower body splits or front and back splits. As long as you are eating, sleeping, and hydrating properly you can perform the same full body workout up to three days a week and get consistent, amazing results! Below is an example of a two day split strength training full body workout. Beginning with a very basic routine like this will help you prepare for more advanced workouts as you continue your fitness journey.
1. Barbell Back Squat
5 - 10
2. Barbell Front Squat
5 - 10
3. Barbell Overhead Press
5 - 10
4. Weighted Dip
5 - 10
2. Romanian Deadlift
5 - 10
3. Walking Lunge
4. Barbell Bench Press
5 - 10
5. (Weighted) Chin-Up
5 - 10
- 30 to 40 minutes of cardio
- Repeat “Day 1”
- Repeat “Day 2”
- 30 to 40 minutes of cardio
THE BIG 3
Squats are one of the most basic / functional exercises you can do. They help build strength and muscle around your hips, knees, and ankles. If using a barbell, you will also build strength in your shoulders, back, and spine. There are a few variations of the squat which will work your body in different ways. For example, a front squat puts less stress on your lower back, but requires more core strength to perform and targets your quadriceps more a well.
We squat in one form or another during everyday activities. Whether you are performing manual labor or simply standing / sitting down, this basic movement should always be incorporated in your program. Squats are also a great tool for assessment of balance, strength, and stability through the lower complex.
One major role of a squat is to help improve your hip extension which is the hinging of the hips back and through the pelvic extension. In short, this exercise will help you improve everything from sprinting & running to suplexing.
Before attempting different variations of the squat, it is important to know why you are performing them and what their primary focus is. Be sure to focus on alignments and the balances between your muscles to ensure proper progressions with your form as you begin to add more weight to the exercises.
The deadlift is a true measure of strength and like the squat requires an understanding of proper “hip extension” to perform properly with heavy weight. They are a quick way to build strength and build muscle, especially if you have never done them before. You can also incorporate this exercise into your training program to help build hip speed as well.
Most of the major muscles in the body are required when performing the deadlift and the amount of work required to perform the movement is very hard to replicate with any other one exercise as far as effectiveness and overall muscle recruitment. Deadlifts require a lot of core strength and are much more than just bending over and picking up the bar. Without a key understanding of how to set-up the lift, you will lose strength and can easily hurt your back as well.
There are different variations, bars, and styles of the deadlift which may suit some better than others. As you start to incorporate the exercise more regularly into your training regimen, you might even notice that your style will consistently change on how you perform the lift until you find the best way to do the lift where you are at your strongest!
BARBELL BENCH PRESS OR BARBELL OVERHEAD PRESS
There is a debate as to which exercise is the better “measure” of your pushing power. Although most tend to lean toward the barbell bench press, we decided it would be great to still cover both. In general, pressing is important for building strength in your upper body and both exercises should be included in your workout program.
The barbell bench press is a standard benchmark lift. Although it does isolate the chest a bit more than the other muscles involved, it is still a compound movement and will help build muscle and strength in your shoulders and triceps. But the exercise is much more than just pushing the barbell up and down. Without a proper stance on the bench, retraction of the scapula and core engagement you will find yourself very weak on this lift and run a high risk if inuring your shoulders.
Take a moment to learn more about proper form here:
The overhead press is still a “push” movement, but will challenge you a bit differently than the barbell bench press. Because you are standing during the exercise you will rely a bit more on core strength to perform the movement. There will be less chest engagement as well because the primary movers are going to be your shoulders and triceps. When performing the exercise you really want to make sure you maintain a tight core and contract your glutes during each press. This is going to help you stabilize, especially as you start to lift heavier weight. Also, be sure to work with a full lockout and a full range of motion to improve overall strength and mobility. Take a moment to learn more about proper form here:
Well defined muscles do not necessarily mean that you are in the best shape you can be in. As you continue to make gains in muscle size and increased strength you also want to make sure you are staying flexible and mobile. Aside from proper stretching, training in full range of motion (ROM) will help ensure that your joints are not becoming too tight. The main benefits of training in full ROM are that you are continuously improving your mobility & ability to stabilize throughout the entire motion of an exercise thus building joint stability and strength.
There are a few different types of connective tissue that you will be working when strengthening joints and exercising in full ROM. Also keep in mind that proper stretching will keep your joints and connective tissue “greased” to help maximize your performance. Typically there is not any reason to focus on one area unless that area is in need of physical therapy or rehabilitating due to an injury. In most cases, if you have a joint injury specific isolation movements will be used to help mobilize and strengthen the area.
Max effort lifts are a major way to improve the strength of the connective tissues within your joints. Low reps (1 - 6) will increase the base strength of a joint while higher reps (8 - 12) will help build the muscles surrounding a joint.
Isometric holds are also a great way to strengthen connective tissues and increase overall stability. Holding positions in which your strength/stability may be weaker will be the most beneficial. An example of this would be holding the contracted part of a pull up with your knees tucked in. Try to apply this method to some of your weaker lifts and see if it helps you build more strength & stability.
HEART RATE ZONES
Heart Rate Zones Training in different heart rate zones will determine the kind of results you should expect to receive.
Training within 50 - 60% of your max heart rate (MHR) is where you want to be when warming up. As you continue to exercise and become more comfortable within this range you can even go as high as 70% of your MHR during your warm-up. When you continuously train in a zone of around 65% MHR about 85% of the calories you burn will be from fat. You will begin to increase your cardiovascular endurance level in these zones as well.
As you begin to take your training to the next level it will be crucial that you are able to safely maintain a higher heart rate closer to around 80% of your MHR. This is the zone where you will start to gain more endurance and improved cardio function beyond just your basic fitness levels. You will also burn more calories at this level, but only around 50% will be from fat.
For more intense exercises involving both strength training and explosive movements you will end up maintaining a heart rate closer to 80 - 90% of your MHR. When within these zones you will be using short term energy reserves and only 15% of the calories being burned will be from fat. You will not be able to maintain this level for long, but you can recover within minutes and be ready for your next set.
SELF MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
Using a foam roller is a great way to practice myofascial release and is very useful to help relieve stress and tension in your body. It is a type of soft tissue therapy that helps loosen up tight joints and alignments of connective tissues. As muscles begin to adhere to each other and restrict your mobility, this type of release will help “break up” the adhered tissue. Aside from increasing mobility & flexibility through muscle breaking up the adhered tissue, myofascial release may also help improve blood circulation in and around the area as well.
If you don’t have a foam roller, you can certainly stretch and do some light cardio after your workout to ensure that your muscles do not become too tight immediately following an intense workout. This type of cool down will help slowly decrease your heart rate to avoid a drastic change or drop in your heart rate immediately following an intense workout as well as help you to wind down and return back to your normal heart rate.