There Are No Warm-Ups In The Jungle

By: Danny Vega

It’s not an uncommon sight to open a veteran lifter’s log and see a long list of movements they do before they even put a bar on their back. This is just smart in my opinion. Incorporating a proper warm-up into your training can help you prepare your muscles and connective tissue, prime your CNS, and get focused for the day’s training.

What’s A Warm-up?

First of all, a proper warm-up is about more than increasing your body temperature. It is 90 degrees right now. I’m pretty warm—that doesn’t mean I’m ready to lift. I would break a warm-up into 3 parts—general, dynamic and specific. General would be something to get your blood flowing like the stationary bike. Dynamic would be anything that takes your muscles through the full range of motion without holding the stretch and specific is what you will do at the end when you are ready to lift (i.e. 30 reps with the bar before you add weight to it).

Here Is An Example Squat Day Warm-up

  • 5 minutes with the hip circle
  • McGill big 3
  • KB swings/KB goblet squats
  • Passovers with a dowel or PVC pipe
  • 30 reps with the bar only

Notice I didn’t mention any static stretching. Fun fact: in grad school I wrote a paper on static stretching and its effects on injury prevention and ability to increase flexibility. I found that in most of the literature, static stretching did not decrease the risk of injury or improve flexibility (beyond static flexibility, which we don’t need in sports or lifting). Static stretching does have its place when there are imbalances that need to be corrected, or even after training as a cool down, but it should be kept to a minimum.

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Mobility is another buzz word that has made its way into powerlifting. Somehow, gaining mobility has become a goal in and of itself. I won’t go into too much depth, as Brian has covered this in the book (which you can buy here). Point blank, you want to be as tight as possible while going through the range of motion in all three lifts—especially in the squat. Having hypermobile hips in the squat, or hypermobile shoulders in the bench, can lead to serious injury. If you don’t believe me, just read the logs of some of these geniuses who can do Kama Sutra moves but for some reason keep getting injured.

I see a lot of young people who don’t bother to warm up properly because they think they’re invincible, and a lot of the older guys who don’t warm up enough because they don’t have the conditioning they used to and they just want to get going on their main lifts. Both are wrong. Many injuries are of a chronic nature, and not warming up well can contribute to that. It all goes back to making the right decisions all the time. It’s a pain in the ass sometimes, I get it. But put in the extra effort and your training will benefit greatly from it.

I have people like Brian who have given me very specific examples of what exactly I can do to warm-up for each training day (I promise I never skip bird dogs. Ask Chad and Jordan). It’s not uncommon for me to spend 20-25 minutes warming up before I hit my main movement. I also train early in the morning, so I focus more on a warm-up to mentally prepare as well. Focus on a proper warm-up every time you lift and you will not only minimize your chance for injury, but you will have a better training session.

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Danny Vega

Danny Vega is a 220lb raw powerlifter with meet bests of 640 squat in wraps (610 raw), 400 bench, and 700 deadlift. A native of Miami, Florida, Vega received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 2004, where he was a member of the football team and a three-time Dean’s List recipient. Vega earned his masters of science in human performance from the University of Florida, where he worked with the national championship men’s basketball team along with women’s basketball, tennis, and golf programs. He then went on to become the Strength & Conditioning coordinator for VCU basketball. The Rams were 2007 conference champions and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
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