Hail to the Dinosaurs!
Several of our older Dinos have asked me
about warming up properly.
"What exactly do YOU do?" they ask.
So here's the answer.
Now, please note:
1. I'm 56 now, and at age 56, I do much more
in the way of a warm-up than I did when I was
1A. You younger guys keep reading! You'll be
my age someday -- and besides, you just might
learn something useful from an old man.
2. I am currently doing 100 percent Olympic
weightlifting (OL -- snatch, clean and jerk),
so I structure my warm-ups for OL training.
2A. Olympic lifting is gymnastics with a barbell
in your hands. Very athletic. It requires a
different training approach than many other types
of strength training. HOWEVER, even if you don't
do OL, keep reading. You'll find things that apply
to you no matter what you do.
2A. OL training requires great flexibility --
picture the low position of a squat snatch --
so warmups and flexibility work are extra
3. As an older lifter, I try to ease into things
slowly, work up a good sweat, and not jump into
the heavy stuff. That's not good for an older
guy's muscles -- or his joints -- or his heart.
You want to take the time to get everything revved
up slowly, including your cardiovascular system.
4. I base each day's workout on how my warm-ups
feel. If the warm-ups go well, I usually end up
going heavier on my work sets. If they don't go
as well as they should, that's a signal to back
off and not go too heavy.
4A. Fluid movement, good form, and speed are what
I look for in warm-ups. If I'm too tight and stiff
to hit the proper positions with a broomstick or
an empty bar, that means I haven't recovered from
my last workout. And as Tommy Kono says, if you
can't do it in perfect form with an empty bar,
adding weight is not going to improve the situation.
4B. Grip strength! if my grip is strong, I know I am
fully recovered and can go heavy. NOTE: this is a
very good reason not to use lifting straps to hold
onto the bar.
5. I always structure my warm-up to the exercise or
exercises I will be doing. If I am training squat
snatches, which require great mobility in the
shoulders, I spend more time loosening my shoulders.
If I train front squats, I spend more time stretching
and loosening my wrists (so i can hold the bar in the
6. I currently do NOT do any sort of light cardio to
get warmed up for lifting -- but I've done this in the
past with good results. It's especially useful in the
winter, when the garage is really cold.
6A. If you do cardio as a general warm-up, start light
and easy and build up slowly. Don't begin with full-
bore or full-speed cardio. Start slow and easy and
build up. See point no. 3 above.
6B. For anyone over age 40, doing a cardio cool-down
at the end of each workout is a very good idea.
7. Step no. 1 -- simple movements and stretches. I do
very slow, easy stretches and simple movements like
deep knee bends and shoulder windmills to start getting
loose. I stretch my low back and hamstrings by holding
a broomstick and slowly going through the mid-range of a
a snatch pull or clean pull, keeping my back flat and
keeping tension on the hamstrings. These are not static
stretches -- they are slow moving stretches.
7A. I do front squats and overhead squats with a broom-
stick. After these slower, easier movements, I perform
squat snatches with a broomstick -- slowly at first,
and then faster.
7B. Yes, I did say "a broomstick."
7B. When you warm-up, start with a light weight and ALSO
start by moving slowly. You can't move at top speed with
a broomstick, and empty bar or a light weight. You'll hurt
yourself. One of the secrets of a successful warm-up is to
gradually increase your speed as you add weight to the bar.
8. Check your ego. Yes, you can walk by and watch and laugh
at the old guy lifting the broomstick and then the empty
barbell. (And you can come back 30 minutes later and see if
you can handle the weights he uses later in his workout.)
9. Low reps and singles. I usually use low reps and singles
in my warm-ups. I don't try to generate body heat by doing
reps. My goal in a warm-up is to prepare my body for heavier
weights in athletic-style lifting. It's all about form,
technique and gradually increasing speed of movement.
10. Do what you need to do. I don't get hung up on any sort
of predetermined sets, reps, weights, or movements. I go by
feel, and if I need to do more than usual, I do it.
10A. Many guys do 5 x 5 but feel like they need a few more
warm-up sets. They ask me, "Can I do 6 x 5 or 7 x 5 or 8 x 5?"
The answer is -- of course! Do whatever you need to do in order
to handle heavy weights in your work sets.
11. You go faster, with shorter rests during your warm-up
sets. As the weights get heavier, your rest periods increase.
12. Rule of thumb: Under age 30, take at least a 10 minute
warm-up. Over age 40, take 10 to 15 minutes on your warm-ups.
Over age 50, take 15 to 20 minutes.
And the bottom line is this: every minute of quality warm-up
time will add immeasurably to the value of your workout.
As always, thanks for reading and have a great day. If you
train today. make it a good one!
Yours in strength,
P.S. For more important tips on warm-ups and on effective
training for older lifters, grab Gray Hair and Black Iron:
P.S. 2. My other books and curses are right here:
P.S. 3. Thought for the Day: "Exercise is money you
put into your strength and health savings account."
-- Brooks Kubik