Warm Ups

Designing Practical Warm-ups for the Overhead Athlete

To give a brief recap, if you missed Stevo's post on Friday: August is dedicated to training means, modes, and methods for overhead athletes (these are sports like baseball, softball, volleyball, swimming, and javelin). 

The pre-practice and pre-competition warm-up is extremely important for any athlete, but to an even greater degree for those athletes who need to give special consideration to the shoulder complex. As a strength coach, I've given numerous warm-up protocols to numerous athletes over the years and while, in a pinch, I could easily produce one that would be well-balanced and comprehensive, I've always preferred to plan my warm-ups in advance.

Preplanning ensures that every muscle, joint, angle, whatever has been taken into consideration and a decision has been made about how to address it for that day (or not). The important thing here being that you must give yourself the chance to make a decision about something ahead of time vs. simply overlooking the area.

Most coaches plan warm-ups on the fly, but like most things at SAPT, we tend not to do what "most" do... that's usually the easy way... and we know the right way! Thus, why we're the premier strength and performance training facility in the Fairfax, Tysons, McLean, Vienna areas.

Getting back to the practical warm-up: Over my time working with college athletes, I ended up developing an ever-evolving template of warm-ups that I would rotate and match to the first 15- to 30-minutes of the practice plan. For example, if the start of practice was going to be ripe with sprinting, the I would choose the plan to match. On the other hand, if practice was starting with quite a bit of hitting (volleyball) where I knew the shoulder needed to be totally warm and ready, then that would inform my warm-up choice.


This video is just showing the team warming up... keep that in mind while you watch the power + the height the guys are getting on the ball off one bounce. What's the warm-up look like before this part of the warm-up??? I bet it's a pretty good one.

Anything is an option: body resistance only, bands, medicine balls, actual sporting equipment (i.e. a baseball), weights, etc... Shoot, you can even use a sled/Prowler to do a fantastic total body warm-up that fully addresses the shoulders.

So, when planning a warm-up (or your own set of templated warm-ups) make sure you are addressing all the primary movers and in all directions - planes of motion - plus weaving in extra prehab that may not occur in the weight room and copious amounts of shoulder friendly mobilizations, stabilizations, and drills.

You Want To Be Fast, Huh?

Intern Post By Goose & Josh:

                      Get infinity times faster by going beyond your understanding of speed.

Humans have an addiction to speed. No matter what we do we are never fast enough. Whether it is from running to jets flying over the open sky we build/engineer these bodies to go faster. The question is how do we engineer speed and how do we do it properly? We can break it down into 5 parts strength, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, form, and genetics. Having a firm understanding of these 5 elements will allow you to harness a power that the human race strives to attain.


Being strong does not mean being able to lift heavy things and put things back down. It is the matter of building a foundation for speed. Without strength speed cannot be accomplished. Strength determines the rate of force development (RFD) meaning how fast your muscles contracts to produce a maximal amount of force. With minimal strength there is low RFD meaning that the muscles in your body will not be able to get you to the finish before the guy that can produce the same amount of force is a shorter period of time. Strength training, done correctly, can and will excel your RFD to the next level.

Strength training is also vital to injury prevention. It is much more beneficial and time efficient for the athlete to prevent and injury versus recovering from one. Resistance training strengthens one’s connective tissue and increases the size and strength of ligament. Strong ligaments especially in areas such as the Achilles are necessary for an athlete to keep running at top speed. The physical stress from resistance/strength also increases bone density, which will help prevent overuse injuries such as stress fractures.

                    Did you know that the Hulk can run at least 215 mph? That is pure strength.

Well some of you also may be thinking, “I lifted once and I got hurt…” Well yes improper lifting can hurt anyone just like improperly can cause stress fractures. Make sure you know exactly what you are doing and if you do not ask people who do. I’ll admit it is difficult to find people who know how to teach lifts properly and this requires research. Well you might be thinking this is a lot of work just to pick things up and put them back down. Let me tell you this, if you truly want to get faster then you will do whatever you can to get it done.

P.S. As strength coaches it is our responsibility to understand that we are responsible not just for making them lift more weights but for the athletes overall health and well being.

P.P.S. If you still are not convinced about building strength and its obvious benefits then check out this great article: http://saptstrength.com/2013/06/17/lifting-running-monster-benefits-an-intern-post/ It should help clear up some doubts.

Cardiovascular Endurance

What’s the point of running fast if your heart cannot keep up? Cardiovascular endurance determines how long your heart rate can pump at a high rate. The heart is the most important muscle in your body and without it there is no life, thus no speed. To have a healthy heart can mean to add more years to your life, which means more time to go fast!

Yes sure a healthy heart is great and goes without saying, but honestly how does this effect my force production to create more SPEED!? Well let’s put it this way, your heart pumps blood through out your body right? Well that includes your muscles too. What muscles need in order to function is oxygen. Well guess what is in the blood going to your muscles, OXYGEN!

So that being said if your heart poops out and pumps less blood after 10 seconds, your muscles start getting less and less oxygen. If your muscles are not getting enough of oxygen then the they will have a much harder time contracting thus = less force production. So the longer the heart can pump blood without straining the longer your body can propel itself at full speeds.

Having strong cardiovascular endurance is also vital for recovery between your bursts of intense speed. The aerobic energy system is responsible for full recovery between bouts of sprints, so that you can sprint fast on each successive sprint rather than seeing drops in performance. It clears out metabolic byproducts of anaerobic work such as CO2. Clearing out the waste allows for ATP to be produced and ATP is what we use for energy to create explosive speed.

             Long story short DON’T skip cardio day! Never know when a zombie will show up

Muscular Endurance

    The body derives its energy from three different energy systems, the Phosphagen, Anaerobic, and Aerobic Systems. Generally speaking the Phosphagen System provides energy for all out efforts lasting 6 to 15 seconds, depending on the nature of the activity. Meanwhile the Anaerobic System provides the energy for submaximal bursts of speed lasting 30 seconds to2 minutes. Finally the Aerobic System provide a low but constant flow of energy for long lasting activities such as distance running. Whenever you exercise all three of the energy systems are turned on however the amount of energy you get from each one varies depending on duration, intensity, and the nature of the activity.

When sprinting you primarily rely on the Phosphagen System and the Anaerobic System for energy. The Aerobic system is being utilized during the activity but its main role is providing energy for recovery. This is why it is important to have a strong cardiovascular system, it’ll help you recover faster so you can sprint for longer. Muscular endurance training teaches your body how to push the limits of these energy systems and how to recover faster. This can be done through interval workouts, fartleks, hills, and bleacher/stair workouts. By continuously putting a high energy demand on your body and teaching it to keep working under stressful conditions you are actually pushing your Lactate Threshold back further and further.

Your body naturally produces lactate throughout the workout but when you do high intensity muscular endurance workouts you get to a point when the lactate overwhelms the system which gets rid of it. Once lactate production exceeds the removal capacity of the body it starts to accumulate in the blood stream. This is bad news because it interferes with the production of energy by the 3 systems I mentioned before. This begins the downward spiral to you ending up on the ground with vomit all over yourself. During workouts you push your body to its Lactate threshold but not passed it, this paired with your body’s awesome ability to adapt to new stresses over time will keep pushing the threshold further back. This is how people “get in shape”, they constantly put stress on the body which causes it to adapt until the previous level of stress is no longer as challenging.

Mental Toughness! My personal definition of mental toughness is being able to push yourself to do what you have to do even when it hurts. My favorite example of this is the 400m dash. The 400 meters is a great but terrible race for no matter who you are/how fast you are the last 100 meter are ALWAYS going to hurt. The high school scrub who runs 53 seconds and the all-star who runs 46 seconds are both hating life during that last straightaway. The difference being that the all-star has taught himself to ignore the pain and maintain form, meanwhile the scrub is thinking too much about the burning in his quads while his arms flail everywhere and everyone flies by. It’s the mental fortitude to ignore how tired you are and being able to remain focused on the task at hand that separates champions from benchwarmers. Only by constantly putting your body in this tired state, through running workouts, and testing your mental fortitude will you get tougher.

                                           Only the toughest person wins the race!


    The reason why coaches are such sticklers about form is because bad form sacrifices efficiency. There’s a reason why all the fast people on TV look the same when they run! Good form allows you to use you’re body’s levers to your advantage and to properly direct the force you’re putting on the ground. In layman’s terms, it lets you do work while expending less energy. This makes the difference in the end of the race/game when everyone is tired. Whoever has the most energy left will win 9 times out of 10. The simplest running form drill that will work wonders when performed correctly are:

-A Skips

-B Skips

-High Knees

-Butt Kicks

-Straight Leg Bounds

-Alternating Quick Leg

-Falling Starts

These drills not only work on running form but also coordination. They can do wonders for kids and adults who lack the coordination to run properly.


**Front pack = world class times, stragglers = average times, form made the difference!**


    As much as I would love to say we are all equal and have the exact same potential, that would be a lie. I’m a firm believer in genetic superiority. We all knew that guy in high school or college that had the drive to work hard but barely improved every season. On the flip side, we all had that friend who never tried hard at all and was still the best on the team. You can only fight your genetics so much! HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve greatness! Sure you may not be a national champion but being All-State or Conference Champ is still pretty awesome. There is still plenty of glory to be had, you just have to go out there and get it! Even if you don’t win but set a personal best, that still means you are now better than you’ve ever been, there should be some small amount of satisfaction there! So what if you’re genes aren’t the best it doesn’t mean you can’t get faster! Odds are you’re not even close to hitting your genetic ceiling, aka you’re body’s full potential. Do work and worry about the factor you can control.

                        **We can’t all be the greatest athlete in the world, but we can try ;)**

A Prerequisite to Lifting Heavy Weights

Ahhh how exciting, my first blog post as a coach at SAPT. I’ve got my cup of coffee, The Best Around playing on loop and I’ll be doing hip mobilities throughout writing this blog entry. Why? Because The Best Around was originally supposed to be for a Rocky III montage, but was replaced by Eye of the Tiger and I think Joe Esposito deserves more credit for the inspiration it brings…. Why am I doing the hip mobilities every 30 minutes while at a desk? Easy, because I want to squat later. Mobility: A Prerequisite to Lifting Heavy Weights

If you’re reading this blog, then it’s obvious you want to get strong, build muscle, and improve fitness in each and everyone of your workouts. You’re the type of person who sees exercises like deficit deadlifts, deep squats and overhead presses and gets as giddy as a little schoolgirl at the thought of trying it in your next workout. You look up the technique, take a few mental notes, begin with light weight for a warm-up, and then finally drop butt-to-heels into that heavy squat.

But what happened? You thought you would drive up out of the hole like superman initiating his flight takeoff, but instead you feel your lower back light up like Iron Man’s arc reactor.

You didn’t check your mobility prerequisites for that exercise did you?

Position is Power

Every exercise requires a certain degree of mobility in particular joints in order to execute the movement safely. If the mobility is not there, then the body will look for a way around it to accomplish that movement. By doing this you are putting yourself into a compromised position, and what’s worse is that if you’re doing it with training, you are reinforcing a compromised motor pattern. Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.

Not only are you actually weaker in these compromised positions, but you are more likely to injure yourself. This needs to be fixed before you can get strong. You can only squat so much weight with a Hyena Butt. You must work on gaining enough mobility to get into whatever position a given exercise/movement requires, WITHOUT compromise, and then you can become strong.

I’m sure you’re probably wishing I’d just shut up and tell you how to get mobile, right? Well too bad! Because first it is more important to understand WHAT needs to be mobile.

Understanding Mobility

Joint mobility is the degree to which a joint can move through a range of motion. When a joint becomes less mobile, it becomes more stable as it can’t move. (Note: Stability is not a bad thing! You just need it in the right places.)

Though it’s not black and white, many of our joints are meant to be mobile while others are stable. Sometimes, due to activities (or lack thereof) in our daily life, injuries or even the shoes we wear, joints that should be mobile become stable and throw off our body’s movements. When these joints that should be mobile are then locked down, joints that are stable then become mobile to compensate for the lost motion. This relationship is constant throughout the entire body and it’s the reason you will see lots of errors in movements that can’t be fixed with simple queues.

The Joint-by-Joint Approach outlines this mobility-stability relationship between the joints and how it could affect movement. Essentially it conveys that the following joints need more mobility or stability:

Arch of Foot – Stability

Ankle- Mobility

Knee- Stability

Hips- Mobility

Lumbar spine- Stability

Thoracic spine- Mobility

Scapula- Stability

Gleno-humeral(shoulder) joint- Mobility

Does anyone else see the pattern here? Our body alternates the needs of our joints from head to toe. So what do you think happens if one of these is thrown off? Then the pattern is broken and they all get thrown off to some extent. If someone is flat footed, they will probably have poor foot stability and it will cause their feet to collapse in movement. This results in a loss of ankle mobility over time, and their knees will almost always cave in when they squat. The reason for this is because their knees are now looking for mobility. The same can be true for losing stability. Lets say Yoga Sue starts stretching out her lower back more and more because she’s been having back pain. By creating more mobility in her lumbar spine through stretching, she is reinforcing her body to move through her lower back rather than hips and will eventually lose hip mobility. I’ll touch more on the stability component in my next post.

If the stability/mobility pattern is thrown off, then it will compromise your movements and thus jeopardize the intended benefits of lifting heavy things and your training sessions will look like poop.

Fix It!

So I’m sure you’ve spent the past few minutes form checking your squat depth in a mirror and are now begging for the answer of how to become a mobility master. Have patience grasshopper; first you must find your weakness.

Step 1. Find your limiting factor

This step will most likely need a coach or knowledgable training partner. You must determine what joint is immobile and causing the issue in your movement. You can use a movement screen for this or you can informally just breakdown the movement to see when the poop hits the fan.

Step 2. Determine WHY it’s your limiting factor

Joints can become immobile for several reasons. More often then not it is because your joint is stuck in one position for a long period of time due to your lifestyle. If you find this to be the culprit you’re going to need to make some changes before you can start seeing results. You may have to stop wearing those 5 inch heels or you may have to start getting up and walking from your desk every 20 minutes.

Sometimes a joint can become immobile due to overuse in a certain range of motion. You will see this a lot in runners or any other athlete that goes through repetitive motion. If this were the finding, you would just go straight to step 3.

Occasionally you may find that a joint is immobile because it is protecting something. This will take a more educated diagnosis, but if that is the case, then DO NOT MOBILIZE IT. If muscles aren’t firing right or there is a structural issue causing instability, the body’s natural response is to lock that joint down to keep it from being unstable and causing more damage.

Step 3. Soft Tissue Work

You now know what’s immobile and why. You’re about to start training, now it’s time to mobilize it. Foam rolling is one of the fastest ways to increase mobility of a certain joint. Simply roll on the muscles that influence that joint and try to workout the super-happy-fun knots you find. If you’re new to this use a foam roller, if you’re one bad dude, try a PVC pipe or lax balls. If it’s your thoracic spine, try using a t-spine peanut.

Step 4. Mobilities

You’re going to have to lengthen the tissues holding down the joint at some point. I find it most effective to do in the warm up, right after foam rolling and even throw a few into the workouts. If it’s pre or intra-workout, then you will want to use dynamic movements to accomplish this. Otherwise feel free to do the good ol’ fashioned static holds.

Step 5. Activate

If you take one thing away from this process, I want it to be this: Mobility will not stick, unless stability is created somewhere else. If you’re trying to loosen up your hip flexors, do some glute work after you stretch them. If you’re trying to improve ankle mobility, do some dorsiflexion exercises after you stretch the calf. If you’re trying to improve adductor length, do some core stabilization exercises right after loosening up the adductors. I think you get the picture.

Step 6. Use It

In order to keep your joints mobile, you must consistently use the full range of motion in them when you train. This means going to full depth in a squat, locking out that deadlift and overhead press and really grinding the lateral lunges. If you want to get fancy with it, you can even use exercises that are known for creating excessive range of motion like Bulgarian split squats, windmills and arm bars. Whatever you decide to do, don’t cheat yourself and use the full range.

Step 7. Dominate

If you consistently follow the previous steps, you should be in a good position to rip some weight off the floor. Some issues will take longer to fix then others, but be religious with your mobility work and it will pay off to help you feel and perform better.

For the Overextended Part II

A few months ago I wrote a post on warming up for those with a chronically overextended lumbar spine. Since then I’ve gotten a few requests for a sequel post, so... Without further adieu…

For the Overextended Part II: The Lift

In my first post I discussed “prepping” for the lift for those with exaggerated lordosis.  I babbled about targeted stretching, mobilizing, and activation exercises used in conjunction with the idea that it would help “tuck” the hips under a bit more and reduce that ridiculous curve in the lower back that ails us.

For many that'll do the trick. After the warm-up they can feel their abs and glutes engage a bit more throughout their lifting session and they feel much more secure about their lower back health.

However, there are those that need more than a 15 minute warm-up to relieve them of their discomfort caused by the overextension. These might be the people with hip flexors that refuse to let go, erectors in constant spasm, and glutes that seem to have tragically passed away from years of desk work.

For these people with symptoms a bit more severe than the rest, some careful consideration should be taken into not only their warm-up but the structure of the lifting program itself. Here are a few exercises I like to use to fight against the overextension apocalypse.

Lower Body

Front Squats

For improved posture I tend to favor front squats over back squats mainly because it really helps to emphasize t-spine extension. Like I mentioned in my previous post, a hyperlordodic posture is often accompanied by significant kyphosis in the upper back. By focusing on keeping the upper back tight and the elbows up and in, front squats basically become a good way to practice good posture under resistance. (Practice makes permanent!)

Split Squats

Remember to do your split squats with all of the knee health rules in mind (keep the knee tracking straight ahead, try to keep a vertical shin), but add this one: squeeze the glute of your rear leg HARD the entire time. If you really flex that rear buttcheek you will feel a good stretch in that hip flexor as you descend to the bottom position.

Pull-Throughs and Glute Bridges

Keep hammering away at your posterior chain strength and emphasize the “tuck under” with your hips. Pull-throughs with a band or cable column is a great way to train the backside while avoiding any compression on your spine. Also throw in some glute bridges into your actual lift! They shouldn’t be reserved for just the warm-up.

Glute bridging variations are endless:

-Double Leg -Single Leg -Double Leg Concentric with Single Leg Eccentric -With a Barbell -With Chains -With a Barbell AND Chains -Back Elevated -Feet Elevated -Back AND Feet Elevated

Get to 'em!

KB Swings

Same idea as above: POSTERIOR CHAIN WORK. Perfect the hinge and develop incredible hip thrusting power. I recommend getting Kelsey or another well-qualified coach to supervise if you haven’t done them before. A correctly performed swing session can do wonders for your posture, but a bad swing sesh can wreak havoc on your lower back!

Upper Body

½ Kneeling Work

Do standing overhead presses and barbell rows make your lower back cranky? Fear not, and enter the ½ kneeling realm of pushing and pulling. Getting into the ½ kneeling position does a great job of positioning overextended spines back to neutral. Replace some of your pressing movements with single arm ½ kneeling landmine, kettlebell, or dumbbell presses. Then make sure to get your pulling in and grab a band or a cable column to do some ½ kneeling rows as well.

Push-Ups and Inverted Rows

Easy enough right? If you take away the movement from the upper extremities, these exercises become a plank or an isometric glute bridge, respectively. What I mean by that is you MUST make sure you keep your abs tight and your hips (NOT lower back) locked in extension as you do your push-ups and rows. When you feel like you’re starting to arch, call it a set or reset your hips.


Bench pressing can help improve my overextended posture?! No, I doubt it. However, I’m throwing it on here for a couple reasons 1) A lot of us are probably going to bench anyway. 2) It may be part of your team’s strength program for high school, college, or beyond.

Many trainees (including myself) prefer to bench with an arch. It helps to get into a position of better leverage and feels a bit smoother on the shoulders. When setting up to bench with a significant arch there is going to be some extension in the lower back, but you should try your best to emphasize the arch coming from the thoracic spine. If you cannot get into an arched back position on the bench without discomfort you still have options. You can simply bench with less of an arch, and by elevating your feet on weight plates you will be able to get a flatter back posture more comfortably. Another option you have is... don't bench. What?!

Floor Press

Take it to the floor! Bring your feet in and keep your back flat against the ground. That should quench your thirst for supine barbell pressing.

Anterior Core Work

Always throw in some work for your abs. Stronger abs will help pull that pelvis up in the front and decrease that anterior tilt. Anti-rotation presses, reverse crunches, roll-outs with a stability ball or an ab-wheel, and stir-the pots are all good options. One of my favorites is a plank. Boring you say? Load it up! Start stacking plates on your back and try to PR every time.

Fin That’s it for now. Can’t guarantee a part III, but you never know!

How to Warm-Up in a Hurry: Lower Body Edition

Ever find yourself in a time crunch where have to "get in, get out" of the gym quickly and efficiently?

Yeah, me too. Probably more than I'd like.

Those of us enlightened folk know that a proper warm-up - consisting of self-myofascial release, dynamic flexibility and mobility work, along with a few acute corrective drills, to name a few - goes a long way toward ensuring a higher-performing body and stronger lifts.

But if you're crunched for time, how do you prepare?

Do you spend thirty minutes on foam rolling, glute bridging and spiderman-ing (yeah, I made that last one up), only to leave a mere five minutes for strength training?

Or, do you just hop under the bar and start squatting it like there's no tomorrow?

Do you skip the weight room altogether?

None of the above is ideal, so I thought I'd lay out what I personally do before a lower-body-focused session when pressed for time. In fact, after performing the warm-up I'm about to share, I've had some of the best training sessions of my life.

Enter the most economical warm-up you've ever seen:

1. Pushup to Yoga Stretch Complex

Note: I usually go 10 pushups --> 5 Downward Dog --> 2 Spiderman to Glute Mob/side

2. Walking Knee Hug to Warrior Lunge Stretch (x5/side)
3. Side Plank Series (x :10 each)

(Note: For those who aren't ready for a single-leg+feet-elevated side plank, just do a normal side plank)

 4. Goblet Squat (x8)
 5. Kettlebell Swing (2x10-20)
6. Pick Up Something Heavy


For those of you who care about the "what" and "why" of the warm-up, here are just a few of the benefits you receive from each exercise.

As you'll see below, it's possible to hit a TON of good things in a matter of minutes when we pick some choice warm-up drills.

Pushup to Yoga Stretch Complex

- Core stability, scapular stabilization, and blood flow to the upper body (during the pushups) - Scapular upward rotation, some ankle dorsiflexion, and a slight stretch for the hamstrings (during the "downward dog") - Adductor length and hip flexion ROM for the front leg, hip flexor length for rear leg,  T-spine extension+rotation, and some pec length (during the spiderman w/overhead reach) - A nice stretch into hip flexion+external rotation (during the glute mob at the end)

Walking Knee Hug to Warrior Lunge Stretch

- Hip flexion with neutral spine (during the knee hug) - Hip flexor length, core stability, and shoulder flexion ROM (during the warrior lunge) - Separation of the left and right hip - Ankle proprioception and hip+glute stability of the ground leg (during the knee hug)

Side Plank Series

- This will wake up the core musculature, not to mention frying the abductors and adductors when you transition from double-leg to single-leg support

Goblet Squat

- If you aren't aware of the myriad benefits this bad boy provides, I encourage you to step out from under the rock you've been living under.

KB Swing

- Glute, glute, and glute. - Gets the heart rate going - Some excellent "waking up" of the posterior chain. I always feel incredibly charged up and ready to go after doing some swings. - Not to mention receiving a bit of hamstring length and priming the hip hinge pattern in general.

There you have it, all in about five minutes time required. There are of course many other drills one could employ to get the juices flowing and correct postural flaws, but those are my current favorites.

Warming Up: A Lesson from the Commercial Gym

As I was writing my Monday post on how to do a pre-lifting warm-up series, it got me thinking of something that happened to me that deserves sharing on SAPTstrength. First, let me preface the story by saying that, like many of you, I've seen a LOT of shenanigans in commercial gyms. I'm used to observing people bicep curling in the squat rack, trainers taking overweight clients through circuits on BOSU balls, bros doing "chest/shoulders/triceps" on the same day, boys deadlifting with rounded backs, and (loaded) leg press platforms slamming down on an athlete because his trainer didn't show him how to properly place his feet (not kidding).

Essentially, a myriad circus acts that make me want to pour nuclear waste down my throat in order to end my misery.

The majority of you readers have already taken the Red Pill and are now "enlightened" in the realm of strength (or, as Morpheus would put it, you've stayed in Wonderland to see how deep the rabbit-hole goes), and most of the aforementioned ridiculousness has been derided on the internet before, so I'm not standing here to continue ranting about this stuff.

However, something recently happened to me that I felt deserved some attention. A little something related to that whole, warm-up "thing." I realize the concept I'm about to address may be old news to you, but for those of you who hearing this for the first time: Listen up.

So, I'm in the gym the other day (the only one in there actually...this particular commercial facility is quite small), minding my own business and doing some foam rolling. As usual, I stick my headphones in my ears, put my horse blinders on, and keep to myself. As I continue through the foam roll series, a young man, probably in his late-twenties, walks in the door, and heads straight over to the bench press.

No big deal. I've seen this a thousand times, and I'm done with making fun of people heading straight to the bench on a Monday without warming up because they're "ignorant," "non-functional" (whatever that means anymore), or whatever views I once held as an elitist snob upon first entering the fitness industry. **If they're in the gym, getting after it, then who cares, right?

As he circles the bench like a famished lion eying fresh meat, he is bobbing up and down a bit, saying something about how excited he is to test his bench max since he hasn't pressed in a while.

All is well and good, until I perform one more pass over my IT band, and look over to see this man has loaded 295lbs on the barbell! Without doing a single warm-up rep.

I have to blink twice to make sure I'm not imagining anything.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but if the world's best bench pressers can do some warm-up reps with the bar only, and then do more warm-up reps with 135lbs, then this man (who I am POSITIVE is not a world-class bencher) can do some freaking warm-up reps, am I right?! I mean, it's one thing to avoid "correcting" someone outside SAPT because their training methodology is different than mine, but it's another to watch someone puncture their esophagus without doing anything to help.

I make my way over to him, and the conversation goes like this (I'm not fabricating this at all, mind you):

Me: Hey there, umm, I couldn't help but notice, but did you just load the bar to 295lbs right after walking in here?

Guy: Yeah man! I'm stoked to test my max today. It's been a while.

Me: Sure...yeah I bet. Well, have you thought about warming up at all? It should help you in your max attempt. (I figured that lecturing him on the inner workings of the central nervous system wasn't going to go over too well).

Guy: Nah. I don't want to waste all my muscle on any sets before the max. Gotta have it all for the max, you know!!

Me: Well, yes, but...

Guy (interrupting me, eyes widening and and finger pointing and waving at me):  You know what?! You're just like that other trainer guy I saw in here! He tried to tell me the same thing a while back. Well y'all are wrong, ya know.

Me: Yeah, maybe we are.....Well, how about I at least stand here to give you a handoff?

Guy: No way man!! In the ring, it's just you to fight for and defend yourself, you know? No one is gonna step in there to help you when you're down. When I'm at home, I bench in my basement all the time without a spotter to teach me to fend for myself.

(As I come to find out, he is a competitive boxer).

Me: Okay, well, call it the strength coach in me, but there is no one else in here and you have put on the bar what I am pretty sure may give you some trouble. Why don't we compromise and you at least do a couple reps with 225lbs first, and work up from there? Just trust me on this one.

Guy (slightly miffed): Whatever, sure. That's fine. *Takes the weight down to 225lbs and griiiinnnds outs 4 reps. Then proceeds to put 275lbs on the bar*

(I give the guy a handoff for the 275lbs attempt, and he doesn't come close to making the lift. Gets stapled.)

Guy (getting up off the bench, looking flustered):  Man, I used to bench 350lbs for reps all the time, I don't know what happened.

Me: Yeah, you probably did used to do that....bad day, I guess?

*End of Story

My point in all this is....

Do Your Warm-Ups, For the Love!!!!!!

With the wealth of information out there, I'm consistently shocked to find gym members loading up the bar, only to get stapled by a weight they could have lifted like a champ if they warmed up correctly. Using the example above, this is how the guy should have warmed up (assuming his body actually was prepared to lift 295lbs). It doesn't have to look exactly like I'm about to lay out below, but I hope you get the idea:

Bar x 5-10. Whatever, just groove technique. (not kidding here...many of the world's best lifters start with just the bar) 135x5 185x3 225x2 255x1 275x1 295xEpic Win

Note that a lot of autoregulation goes into play here. For example, say he went for the 275x1 lift but it went up slowwww. It would probably be best to call it a day and come back when he was feeling more fresh. Conversely, say that 275x1 flew up super fast....maybe he could even have gone for a 300lb attempt if he felt "on."

Some days you're going to have it, and other days you won't. Sorry, but that is life. The good news is, a proper warm-up will help you determine what kind of day it is.


**Still fun to talk about sometimes, though.