What does your current squat warm-up look like?
- Foam roll the living heck out of the quads, calves and hamstrings?
- A 15 minute, hip focused stretch-a-thon?
- What warm-up? I Just SQUAT!
Whatever your approach may be, we all want the same thing – squats to FEEL good. So unless you’re a ninja or have the hips of a 4 year old, most of us take some time to loosen up before entering the squat rack. Especially if we’ve just been desk-bound for the past 8 hours. That said, most people do a poor job of warming up EFFECTIVELY. A few arbitrary stretches might be better than no warm up at all, but it’s far from optimal.
An effective warm up should be specific to the primary exercise you have planned. It should prime your body for a productive workout – one that maximises results and minimises risk of injury. Today I want to share a 3-step squat warm-up that does exactly that. It takes less than 10 minutes and it’s going to:
- Unlock mobility.
- Improve the quality of your movement.
- Ignite more powerful muscle contractions.
Before continuing, a quick word on foam rolling.
Though it’s very much ‘on trend’ right now, most people are wasting their time through incorrect application. If you feel particularly ‘tight’, spend 5 minutes (max!) applying some targeted release around the calves, top of the thighs and glutes with tolerable pressure (7 out of 10) and minimal movement. The goal here is simply to normalise resting muscle tone. Not to pulverise your tissues until they’re numb.
The video below is the 3-step Squat warm-up in-action. The running time is slightly over 10 minutes, as I’m demonstrating exactly how to perform each exercise. Below the video is an outline of the 3 steps, which explains the benefit and purpose of each.
Step 1: Dynamic Stretching.
Benefit: Unlock Mobility.
Dynamic stretching involves oscillating in and out of a joint’s various end ranges. It’s very effective at reducing muscle tension and allowing access to greater ranges of motion. When preparing for Squats, we want to primarily target the hip musculature and the ankle. The best bang-for-your-buck stretches are outlined below. Perform 10 controlled reps of each:
- Hip Flexor x10
- Adductor Rock-Back x10
- 90/90 x10
- Hip Internal Rotation x10
- Ankle Dorsiflexion x10
Step 2: Joint Prep (CAR’s)
Benefit: Smooth Hip Motion
After addressing the soft tissues with dynamic stretching, our attention turns to the joints. And for this, nothing beats CAR’s (Controlled Articular Rotations). This mobility exercise involves moving a joint actively through its greatest range of motion, strictly and controlled. This is going to lubricate the joint, fire up the surrounding musculature and stimulate the mechanoreceptors. All in all, this is going to lead to smoother, more coordinated motion. Pre-Squat, we are primarily concerned with the hip, so hip CAR’s will be performed.
- Hip CAR’s x3 / Side.
Step 3: Targeted Muscle Activation.
Benefit: Ignite more powerful muscle contractions.
The final step in our Squat prep will be a targeted muscle activation (or ‘Primer’) for the glutes. Sloppy gluteal recruitment is very common and negatively impacts performance. Given that this muscle is the powerhouse of the lower body, we want the glutes to be fully firing before getting under the bar. For this, we are going to perform the single leg glute hip thrust:
- Single Leg Hip Thrust. 2 x 8-10
DONE. The Squat rack is calling your name. Just don’t forget to build up to your working sets. It’s still important to include at least 1-2 warm up sets to ease your body into heaving loading.
This 3-step warm-up will get your body primed and ready to crush your squats. Watch the video, try it out and see for yourself what an effective warm-up can do for you. If you liked it, you’re going to LOVE ‘The Warm-up Blueprint For Lifting’. It follows the above 3-steps with the addition of (optional) soft tissue prep prior to the dynamic stretches. 50 Instructional videos and 5 fully customised warm-up routines like the one features here. Check it out and thanks for reading this post. Go CRUSH those Squats!