The PERFECT 10 Minute Warm Up Simple. Efficient. Effective.
Never Waste Another Warm Up: Do THIS Instead
Based on what you can see at the foam rolling station and cardio deck at any major commercial gym, it’s clear that the average person (and many fitness professionals alike) have absolutely no idea how to prepare for training in the form of a dynamic warm up. So they do a random “something”, and wonder why their performance plummets while chronic aches and pain become more prevalent.
I get it: we all aren’t exercise scientists. And the “something” method seemingly works OK for some people. But guess what? You don’t have to be a scientist to maximize your results in record time with your warm up. And you can—and should—set your sights higher than OK when it comes to enhancing performance and helping to prevent training related injuries.
Stop wasting away your precious training time on unproductive warm ups! There’s a right way to optimally prepare to train that will streamline your results while helping you bulletproof your body, and there’s the wrong way that will leave you bored, fatigued, or burned out before your training even starts.
Start your next workout with my highly effective and efficient six-phase warm up system. I know six phases seems like a lot, but you’ll be done in 10-12 minutes and ready to do your best work with the iron!
My challenge to you? Never waste another warm up again utilizing this simple, efficient and downright effective system.
Time to start treating your body like a finely-tuned machine and walk into every workout feeling and functioning your very best! This warm up involves six phases, but you can knock it out in the same 10 minutes you’ve been wasting on the treadmill!
Phase 1: Targeted Soft Tissue Work
Not all foam rolling is equally effective, so if you plan on actually seeing objective benefits in your performance in the gym, while also mitigating the risk of training-related injuries, choose the correct soft tissue technique for the goal at hand.
Focusing on problematic “trigger points” is the most effective foam rolling method I’ve used for my athletes and clients to open up their mobility potential, while also being able to more reliably transfer into the big movement patterns.
Instead of rolling across the entire muscle belly, back and forth like a sloppy pizza roller, hunt just until you discover a trigger point—aka, the area in your armpit, chest, quad, or other muscle that simply feels like shit. You’ll know it when you find it!
Fight the urge to foam roll your entire body and waste away precious training time by overdoing the first phase of this warm up. Instead, prioritize one area, and invest 1-2 minutes total with acute trigger-point work on the ball or roller and utilize the oscillatory technique that combines trigger point work with small micro movements of your body moving over the foam roller.
If you want to hit other muscle groups later in the day, great—just follow the guide I laid out in the Performance Recovery System.
Remember, foam rolling isn’t the goal itself, but rather a means to an end. Avoid becoming Gumby before training. Instead, focus on alleviating pain, improving mobility, and moving the hell on to more meaningful work.
Phase 2: Bi-Phasic Positional Stretching
Lifters and strength athletes cringe when they hear the word “stretching” in a dynamic warm up. But contrary to popular belief, there’s actually very little evidence that stretching negatively impacts power, strength, or performance in general.
And anyway, you’re not going to be passively holding stretches for minutes at a time here, or using sloppy compensation patterns to try to “feel” individual muscles stretching. You’re going to put your body into stabilized starting positions (I love half-kneeling, for instance), then generate internal tension throughout the body to wire stability through multiple joints. Then, you’ll add a slight oscillation to enhance the stretch of the targeted tissues.
The “bi-phasic” part of this method just means that you’ll follow up 30-45 seconds of oscillating back and forth with 15-30 seconds of end range stretching, which is still controlled by your muscular tension and body positioning. This stretching phase should take no more than 1-3 minutes to complete.
Both soft tissue work and bi-phasic stretching have the goal of tapping into the power of the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and recover) and allowing the human body to function as authentically as possible. That means you should be working on the same tissue in both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of this sequence for the best results. The two processes go hand in hand, as an integrated unit. If you’re going to foam roll your quads, then stretch them this way afterward!
Looking for some quality hip mobility drills? Check out THIS article that breaks down 10 bi-phasic hip stretches.
Phase 3: Corrective Exercise
The term “corrective” gets misused a lot these days. Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea that every movement or exercise must be perfect before adding load or intensity. Good enough is truly good enough when it comes to enhancing performance and reducing likelihood of injuries.
Adding to the confusion are the endless options in the corrective exercise library. We need to simplify our programming and focus in on key movements that are targeting linchpins (or weak links) of movement dysfunction or pain.
This doesn’t have to be complicated! When in doubt, go for a single catch-all corrective exercise that touches on the hips, core, spine, and shoulders, helping reinforce quality movement. Dr. McGill’s bird dog is a solid choice that far too many people mistakenly think is too easy for them.
If you, like many people, are at a loss trying to figure out if this stuff is actually working, I recommend just focusing on the three S’s of sound movement: stability, sequencing, and smoothness. Simply put, quality movement patterns or corrective movements should look effortless, smooth, and coordinated.
If yours aren’t quite there yet, no worries. That’s why it’s worthy investing 1-2 minutes into this Phase 3 block every training day. It’ll help you to reap the benefits of the warm up, and help you maintain a functional and pain-free body.
Phase 4: Muscle And Pattern Activation
The goal everything you’ve done so far is to open up a movement pattern or region into new ranges of motion. But any improvements in range of motion are useless—and potentially dangerous—without being able to stabilize that new range of motion. That’s where muscle and pattern activation comes into play.
Activation drills that actually produce results need to involve a high degree of mind-muscle connection, and even higher amounts of internal tension and force generation. In order to optimally “activate” a muscle, you need to be able to feel the muscle contract, then be able to carry over that feeling to a compound movement.
Again, this doesn’t need to be complicated. I like the Rusin Shoulder Superset for the upper body, and the often-butchered glute bridge for the lower body.
No matter what movement you choose, thinking about squeezing the active muscles as hard as possible, hardwiring the connections of muscles moving and stabilizing into a new range.
A common problem with this phase is lifters annihilate muscles rather than activating them. This leads to fatigue and a drop in your performance during the workout. Limit yourself to 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps of each movement, with 15-30 seconds between sets. This works out to 1-2 minutes of investment into priming your powerhouse muscles in better, more usable ranges of motion.
And lets be honest, the glutes and lats are going to be key regions to activate. You can read more about these specific drills HERE.
Phase 5: Foundational Movement Pattern Development
The first four phases of this sequence are all precursors to this, the big movement patterns you’ll be practicing in the fifth phase of this system. Everything you’ve done was important to get you to this point, but now is where your mind and muscle take over and get primed for performance.
Simply choose the pattern you’ll be training as your big movement of the day. If it’s squat day, then use the bodyweight squat. Bench press day? Hit the push-up. Simple, easy, effective.
As any serious lifter knows, it takes continuous tweaking and re-mastery of the big lifts in order to continue to see benefits without racking up injuries. So this phase allows us to step back and focus on the feel and quality of the foundational movement pattern at hand, without the stress of actually having maximum loading on the bar.
Why not just load up and go? Because you can’t perfect your movement patterns during hard and heavy training. They need to be two separate entities.
That’s why we use 2-3 sets of 3-5 slow, controlled, and deliberate bodyweight reps to grease the groove of the foundational movement pattern. The focus is not generating a training effect, but rather preparation.
This is definitely not wasted time! If you spend 2-3 minutes here, that time will pay off throughout the workout to come.
Phase 6: Central Nervous System Potentiation
You’re almost ready. After spending some thoughtful practice on your foundational movement pattern of the day, it’s time to cut fluff and focus on being an explosive and powerful athlete, with some central nervous system (CNS) stimulation.
There are only a few tried-and-true ways to potentiate the CNS to optimize power and strength. The first is maximum loading, which isn’t an ideal fit for the warm-up. But the second, high-velocity-based movements, are the perfect fit for this pre-training preparation phase.
Here are some options:
- Lower body: Jumps or brief sprints
- Upper body: Medicine ball throws or slams
- Total body: Seal jacks or rotational medicine ball tosses
Similar to the foundational movement pattern prescription from the previous phase, look to match the type of CNS work with the big movement of the day. For squat-based movement days, pick a vertical jump for this phase. For a deadlift day, a broad jump or bound fits well. Bench press or back day? Medicine ball presses or slams are ideal. You can also implement neural primer supersets by combining jacks with jumps or throws, for the ultimate CNS priming response.
For CNS priming, it’s crucial to dial back the total volume of work to avoid pre-fatigue of the CNS and peaking too soon before you get to use what you’ve worked so hard for! Stick to 2-3 sets of 2-5 reps of any of these methods, and no more than 15 total reps.
Get In, WARM UP, Get To Training!
And then what? Go lift—and be surprised at how much better and stronger your training session feels!
Want to see more examples of how this warm-up looks in action? Check out this FREE 6-Phase Dynamic Warm Up eBook of the six-phase warm-up!
About The Author
Dr. John Rusin is a sports performance specialist and injury prevention expert that has coached some of the world’s most elite athletes, barbell sport competitors, and over 50,000 clients from all walks of life with his innovative pain-free performance programs and systems, which has gained him the reputation as the go-to industry expert for rebuilding after pain, injuries or plateaus. Dr. Rusin is also the founder of the Pain-Free Performance Specialist Certification (PPSC) that has certified over 2,500 personal trainers, strength coaches and rehab pros from across the globe in the pain-free performance training system over the past two years.