An effective warmup if something that every lifter strives for, but too many lifters get caught in the weeds by not making their structure abide by certain priorities. These lifters either end up with a warmup that isn’t helping them improve their performance, or something that looks like a kitchen sink workout because they are trying to get “everything” covered. Today, we are going to outline the most important pieces that bridge the gap between you walking into the gym, and getting under the bar: increasing body temperature, improving movement capacity, and skill practice.
Increase Core Temperature
The most common (and self-explanatory) component to a good warmup is aimed towards simply bringing up the body temperature of the lifter. This is often accomplished by doing just about anything movement related and as such is often covered within the other parts of the warmup. Almost everybody at the gym except powerlifters worry about this. You don’t need to do 10 minutes on the treadmill, but make sure that at the end of your warmup you actually feel warm.
Address Movement and Mobility Limitations
Everyone is going to have some degree of mobility or movement limitations. As a general rule, our goal is to take you from where you are and adjust accordingly to fit the demands of powerlifting. If you are too stiff, we need to loosen up. If you are too loose, we need to build control and tension. This means:
- Build the ability to stiffen the spine, keep good abdominal pressure, and regulate breathing mechanics.
- Given your body proportions, possess adequate ankle, knee, hip, thoracic spine, and shoulder mobility and control to complete the Big 3 without compensation
As such, your warmups should be based around the lifts you are training for the day. If you are a stiffer-hipped individual and warming up for deadlifts, some dedicated hip mobility work might be in order.
Conversely, if you are very flexible but have trouble stiffening up properly to deadlift without dynamic spine flexion, some bracing drills or tempo deadlift work might be in order. Similarly, if you have a hip imbalance, with a lack of stability on one side, some single legged deadlifts might be a great tool for you to use to groove good mechanics on each leg, individually.
We touched on this a bit in the previous section, but THE BEST warmup you can do for powerlifting is the one most specific to your goals.
- Are you struggling with applying some bracing concepts to your squat? Spend some time with an empty bar, do some pause and tempo reps, and become proficient at actually bracing instead of being another monkey with 0 technique who just slaps weight onto the bar
- Do your shoulders wiggle around and you lose retraction/depression in your shoulder blades? Learn to move the shoulders into place, and then spend some time (even as little as 5 minutes) working on keeping your shoulders in position throughout the whole range of motion on your presses.
Far too many lifters treat warmups as something they are doing on the way to the workout instead of treating it as an extremely valuable opportunity to refine their lifting technique.
These same lifters are the ones who only really start caring about technique as a limiting factor once they get to working weights, and have a different technique or other issues with their lifts on each warmup set. They would be much better served spending some time with an empty bar as outlined above and adding weight once they can nail the technique they are working on, and progressively working up to a top set. For more information on improving technique, fatigue, or other thresholds pertaining to powerlifting training, check out Threshold Training For Powerlifting
Does this strategy take a little bit more time initially? Absolutely. Does this result in shorter, more effective warmups down the line, in as little as a couple weeks time? You bet.
As it should be apparent by now, there is a lot of overlap between the principles of warming up, and each concept does not have to be its own separate portion of a warmup. In fact, increasing core temperature, building movement capacity, and skill practice can often be narrowed down to an efficient pairing of 1 or 2 drills that take a total of 10 minutes or less to get you ready for lifting big weights in your workout.