“What’s your favorite way to warm-up for a heavy lifting day?”

Many people hear the term “warm-up” and they think of a non-essential, unimportant part of the training session and simply go through the motions on some half-hearted movements. However, the warm-up is an essential component to a good training session. It is a time when you can get a ton of good work accomplished that will enhance performance in the succeeding training session, but over time a good warm-up that is performed consistently will also do a lot to prevent injury and add longevity to a competitive career. I prefer to think of a warm-up in terms of 3 categories:

  • Mobility
  • Activation
  • Core
  • Rehab/prehab (optional)

Mobility is dynamic movement around a given joint or joints. It should address whatever body parts are involved in the training session. For example, if the training session involves both squat and bench press, then the warm-up should address mobility of both the upper- and lower-body. Activation involves “turning on” the key muscles to be used in the training session. As with mobility, both upper- and lower-body activation should be a part of the warm-up if both upper- and lower-body will be training in the session that follows. I train core in the warm-up for two reasons:

  1. Core is often a neglected area of training. By training it before everything else, you are making it a priority and not leaving it as an afterthought or leaving it untrained altogether.
  2. Nearly every movement you could possibly perform in a training session involves the core. Thus, it is very important to activate it before the training session.

I add rehab and prehab movements as optional in the warm-up. The warm-up is a great time to do rehab and prehab movements because they are typically not very taxing and it is often best to do them in a non-fatigued state. Finally, try to perform the warm-up movements at a fast pace. This will accomplish the goal of increasing your body’s core temperature before the main part of the training session. The following are some examples of current warm-ups that I do (assuming I am doing squat, bench press, and deadlift in the same training session):

Example #1Example #2
Upper Body MobilityShoulder Rok 2x5EKB Arm Bar x10E
Lower Body MobilityHurdle Duck Unders & Hurdle Walk-Overs 2x5EKB Active Straight Leg Raise 2x5E
Upper Body ActivationCable Face Pull 3×15Band Pull-Apart 3×15
Lower Body ActivationGlute Bridge (band around knees) 2×1545 Degree Back Extension 2×25
CoreCable Lift & Chop 2x5EMedicine Ball Throws x50


After I perform this warm-up I will begin to actually warm-up in my first movement of the training session (squats, for example). I like to get within 5% of my first working set, while taking incrementally lower jumps in weight (dropping a rep each set) to get there in my warm-ups. For example:

  • First movement of the day = squat
  • First working set = 75%x5
  • Warm-ups sets = 40%x5/50%x4/57.5%x3/65%x2/70%x1
    • % jumps in warm-up sets are: 10%, 7.5%, 7.5%, 5%


Bryan Dermody