by Gage Reid of Nova Strength
First Off, You're An Athlete
I feel as though I have to constantly remind my Powerlifters this but contrary to popular belief, modern-day Powerlifters ARE athletes. If you look around at some of the top lifters in the world you'll see extremely athletic, relatively strong (relative to their Bodyweight; See Relative Strength vs. Maximal Strength), physically lean individuals who treat themselves like high-level competitors. The best example is the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and its affiliates, such as the USAPL. The lifters in these feds are taking their training, nutrition and coaching to a level we have not seen in the sport of Powerlifting and I believe this is one of the huge contributing factors to the increase in performances over the past decade (that and the sports growing popularity and continued outreach to a wider variety of athletes).
Kimberly Walford, Jen Thompson, Marisa Inda, Heather Connors, Jesse Norris and John Haack are just a few of the high-level competitors that make up the huge talent pool that the USAPL/IPF provides. These athletes are a testament to the ever-changing landscape of the sport and how it's moving in the right direction in terms of recognition amongst other sports; which is pretty evident when social media blows up over Jen Thompson's 325 pound Bench Press at around 132 pounds Bodyweight or the fact that Ray Williams 1,005 pound Squat got over a million views, as well as being featured on ESPN. Powerlifting is changing and it's getting to the point where the old school of thought is starting to phase out; it's time to adapt or be left behind.
Raise Core Body Temperature
Raising your core body temperature before you begin lifting should be one of your biggest priorities. I consider this portion the actual "warm-up" and the Task Preparation being the secondary portion, because if you do not raise your body temperature then your muscles will not be as pliable, which can lead to injury and sub-par performance. Rolling around on a foam roller and implementing mobility drills has it's place (and I will discuss this in the next point), but your priority here is to raise your body temperature through dynamic exercises that can include, but are not limited to; Sprint Build-Ups, Prowler Pushes/Drags, Bike or the Rower. In most cases your warm-up is limited by your imagination, so find something you think is effective, you enjoy doing and that is able to raise your body temperature.
"CresseyPerformance.com: Prowler Push" by Eric Cressey
"Bryce Lewis Big Skwaat and Deadlift Warmup"
Task Preparation and Range of Motion (ROM)
One of the most overlooked aspects of warming-up and preparing for a training session is the idea of taking your body through a similar range of motion that mimics that of the exercise you are preparing to do. So, for example if you are going to train Squats, then your main priority should be to take your body through a warm-up that allows you to move through a desired range of motion that both prevents injury and increases performance, such as; Bodyweight Squats, lunges and other dynamic movements like leg swings, as well as cat camel just to name a few.
Mobility and "Pre-Hab" work has become extremely popular over the last decade and for good reason too- it works! But like all things there is a time and place where it should be implemented and all good things in life can be over done in large quantities. Some athletes choose to spend 45 minutes before their training sessions performing mobility drills that they may not necessarily need. These drills should be seen as accessories and implemented strategically, not as an entire workout before your actual workout. It's important to remember the basics for when you're warming up and if you still feel the need to implement mobility drills do so in a strategic fashion. For example, I like to implement particular mobility drills for my athletes between sets of other exercises, such as the Squat, Bench and Deadlift. Super setting a set of Squats with Rocking Ankle Mobility Drill for example can be both a great way to utilize time better, as well as reinforce proper movement patterns since mobility drills have been proven to work more effectively before/after performing a loaded exercises like the Squat.
"Glute Activation Warm-Up" by Chris Duffin
"THE BEST Warm-Up for Big Skwaats and Deadlifts (feat. Chris Duffin)" by Chris Duffin and Mark Bell
Auto-Regulate Your Warm-Up!
I'm a firm believer that a warm-up should only be as long and tedious as it has to be. If you go into the gym feeling great and motivated for the training session then your warm-up should be long enough to raise core body temperature and take your body through the required Range of Motion (ROM) required for that particular lift. There's no need to spend a set number of minutes warming up when you're primed, warm and ready to start lifting.
Before anyone jumps in and thinks I'm advocating running into the gym and hopping under a loaded bar immediately- stop. I believe that a warm-up should prevent injury and maximize performance. There should not be an arbitrary set time frame or movements required to be done before you can touch a bar. Auto-regulating your warm-up by doing more on days where you feel bad and less on days you feel great is an excellent way to both optimize your time in the gym, as well as allow your body to become more accustomed to the lifts with less precursor movements.
As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments section below or on Facebook!
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