The best warm-up you aren't doing!

Look around your gym, and you’ll see a lot of ineffective warm-up routines. You’ll see people doing 20-plus minutes of cardio before strength training, riding an exercise bike before an upper body workout, or static stretching before starting a dynamic training session.

While each of these methods is undeniably of some benefit, they are not the ideal preparation for a strength training workout.

A good warm-up will:

  1. Increase core temperature

  2. Mobilize major joints

  3. Dynamically stretch major muscles

  4. Increase muscle and central nervous system activation

  5. Provide the opportunity to practice the elements of the coming workout

That might sound like a lot to fit into a warm-up but, in reality, it should only take 10-15 minutes – especially if you skip the treadmill jogging and static stretching. This about it this way; the best way to warm up for strength training is by strength training – albeit with a light weight. Enter the empty barbell warm-up.

The empty barbell warm-up is as specific as a warm-up can be. It uses some common and less common barbell exercises to prepare your body for whatever workout you are about to do. It also provides you with the chance to stake your claim on the squat rack thus saving you from warming up for your workout only to find someone doing bicep curls in the very place you were going to train.

This type of warm-up has been used by Olympic weightlifters for generations, and if it works for them, it’ll work for you. If a 20kg bar is too heavy for you, use a 10kg fitness bar or even a broomstick instead.

Do 12-20 reps of each of the following exercises. Repeat the sequence once or twice more if necessary.

1. Barbell hip hinge

Warm up your back and stretch your hamstrings in one easy move. Hold your bar in a wide “snatch” grip so that it is level with the crease at the front of your hips. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. With your arms straight, shoulders down and back, push your but rearward, hinge forward from the hips, and try to pinch the bar between your upper thighs and abdomen. Do not round your lower back. Stand back up and repeat.

2. Romanian deadlift

Reinforce your hip hinge and mobilize your hamstrings and back even more with this classic lower body exercise. Keep your grip on the bar the same for this exercise.

With your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly and then hinge forward from the hips to lower the bar down the front of your legs. Keep pressing the bar backward toward your legs to fire up your lats. Use your glutes and hamstrings to stand up straight and repeat.

3. Bent over row

This exercise will help warm up your elbows and shoulders and activate your shoulder girdle while reinforcing good posture. It also provides a mild but still useful chest stretch.

Using a shoulder-width, overhand grip, hinge over at the hips until your upper body is roughly parallel to the floor and your arms are hanging straight down. Keep your shoulders back and down. Bend your arms and pull the bar up and into your sternum. Keep your wrists straight. Extend your arms and repeat.

4. Hang clean

The hang clean acts as a nervous system potentiator and will also increase your heart and breathing rate.

Holding the bar with a shoulder-width, overhand grip, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower the bar to just above knee-height. Extend your legs as though jumping and use this momentum to pull the bar up the front of your body. Drive your elbows forward and rack the bar across your anterior deltoids. Lower the bar and repeat.

5. Front squat

This next exercise will mobilize and stretch all the primary lower body muscles and many in the upper body too.

With the barbell racked across your anterior deltoids, point your elbows directly forward so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart; toes turned slightly outward. Push your hips back and squat down as deep as you can without rounding your lower back. Push your knees out to stretch your inner thighs and activate your glutes. Stand back up and repeat.

6. Push press

Your final exercise will increase shoulder mobility while further igniting the nervous system and activating your core too.

From the front squat position, barbell racked on the anterior deltoids, bend your knees, push your hips back, and descend into a quarter-depth squat. Extend your legs and use this momentum to drive the weight upward. Push with your arms to press the bar to lockout. Lower the bar back to your shoulders and then descend into another squat.

This might not be anything like your traditional warm-up, but it’s very movement specific if you are about to hit the gym and start lifting weights. Two or three rounds of this six exercise complex should leave you feeling warm and mobile and ready to work hard – no treadmill required!



Complete your warm up with the EHPlabs preworkout stack! Find your focus and energy boost!