Warming up properly is not only important for maximum effectiveness while lifting, but is invaluable for injury protection and joint health. You should always warm up before getting under heavy weight. Dynamic warm ups are not a substitution for warming up specific movements with light weight, but they will help you get engaged and warm before you ever touch the barbell. When you’re already warm and have your mind-muscle connection firing you will be able to make even better use of those warm up sets. Dynamic warm ups mimic lifting movements in a way that static stretching just cannot, and many women prefer them because dynamic movements begin getting your heart rate up and allow you to start focusing on muscle movement and control.
It is crucial to warm up the shoulder girdle before any sort of pressing movement, including overhead presses and horizontal presses such as the bench press. In order for dynamic warm ups to be effective, it is important to focus on muscular control rather than relying on momentum to carry a movement.
The first warm up for your shoulders is the arm swing. To perform an arm swing, keep your elbow locked and create a circle by rotating your arm at the shoulder from front to back. Do this approximately ten times before switching arms and repeating on the other side. After you have completed your first round of swings, switch back to the original arm and perform another set of swings, this time from back to front, then finish up with back to front swings on the other side. Arm swings can be performed unweighted, or you can add a very small dumbbell, weight plate, or even a can of soup–anything to engage muscle connection by giving your body some resistance to work against.
Around-the-worlds are another great shoulder warm up, and they have the bonus of quickly revealing any mobility weaknesses. Grab a light plate with a large diameter (10lb bumper plates or large 25-lb plates are ideal), and hold it flat in front of your face, with your hands grasping neutrally on either side. A heavy textbook could be used as a substitution for a plate if you are warming up at home. Begin to rotate the plate around your head while keeping the flat side as close to your head as possible. Perform ten rotations to the right, followed by ten rotations to the left.
To complete your shoulder warm ups, drop to the ground and knock out 10-15 push-ups. Modify by using whatever leverage allows you to get in that rep range with good form. Remember to keep a straight line through your connection with the floor (either your toes or your knees) all the way up through the crown of your head. Engage your core and glutes to remain tight through the descent and the press back up. If you’re more advanced, you can use more shoulder-dominant push up variations, such as leg elevated push ups, for overhead days, and more pec-dominant push up variations, such as hand elevated push-ups or one-arm push ups, for bench pressing days.
Targeted hip opening warm ups and explosive movements prior to picking up weight or getting under the bar make leg day much more enjoyable and productive, and leg swings are a great place to start. Begin by holding on to a barbell in a rack or a chair to support yourself. Perform leg swings one leg at a time through three planes of rotation – straight forward and back, forward and back with the foot turned out, and side to side in front of your body. Focus on using controlled movements and swing towards the largest range of motion possible.
First do ten reps swinging front to back, try to swing up as high as you can on the front part of the swing. Keep your toes up to engage more hamstrings and glutes, or point the toes to engage more quad. After the first leg, do one set of ten reps for the other. Then do ten reps of front to back with your foot turned out. Keep your hips squared forward as much as possible, and your toes pointed out away from your body with your ankle at 90 degrees. Again, focus on maximum range of motion in the front of your swing. You should feel this primarily on the inside of your quads and in the opening of your hips. After doing one set per leg, turn to face the barbell or chair and grasp with both hands in front of you. Swing your leg from inside to outside with the greatest range of motion you can muster, and then back. These side-to-side swings will further open the hips and shift some focus to the outside of your quads. Switch legs and repeat.
After your swings, you can complete your hip opening with hip rotations. Perform a hip rotation by lifting your leg as high as you can with the knee bent and rotating from front to side as if you are stepping over a fence. Briefly touch down on the side and repeat the rotation back forward again as if you are stepping over that same fence. Perform ten repetitions for each side.
Bodyweight squats and tuck jumps finish off our dynamic lower body warm up. Focus on perfect form and alignment on your bodyweight squats in order to encourage mind-muscle connection. Try to be aware of your rebound point with every single rep as you come out of the hole, and make sure you drive through with the hips for a solid finish each time. After ten bodyweight squats, perform ten explosive tuck jumps. Stand straight with your arms extended our in front of you for stability. You may hinge and coil slightly at the hips and knees to initiate the tuck. Jump from the balls of your feet and bring your knees as close to your chest as possible before landing with the knees soft to help absorb some of the impact.
As with all lifts, try to minimize your use of momentum in favor of slower, controlled movements for maximum effectiveness.