Sunday, October 5, 2014


No, I didn’t screw up the title to the article, this is in fact the point I am addressing.  There is a current trend in fitness that, after many years of observing it, I STILL can’t wrap my brain around it.  The warm up, the time honored tradition of getting ready to train, has continued to grow longer and longer, getting more obscure and involved day after day, year after year, becoming some sort of uncontrollable monster.  It seems like every week someone introduces yet another gimmicky attention grabber to throw into a warm up, designed to “wake up sleeping muscles” and full activated all 4 heads of the tricep with dynamic inertia and other such nonsense.

After 5-6 sets of this, I should finally be ready to do some calf raises

Folks, the purpose of a warm up is in the name: to get warm.  It hinges on the principles that cold muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons are at more risk of injury compared to warm ones.  How long does it take to get warm?  As someone that spent 5 winters in a place where it got to -60 with windchill and trained in a poorly insulated garage with a few heat lamps, I’ll tell you that the answer is a few minutes, tops.  Hell, by the end of my workout, even at -20, I still had taken off my shirt because I was overheating.  If you’re in a climate controlled gym or in the middle of summer in some “hardcore” facility with no AC or windows, it’s going to happen even faster.  The idea of spending 20 minutes warming up is just insanity.

We have been hoodwinked and bamboozled by an industry that wants to sell you something.  We have been told that we HAVE to work on mobility, that we NEED to foam roll, that if we don’t include a “proper” warm up, we will be doomed to injury and inadequacy.  These are the same people peddling pre-workouts and OTC testosterone boosters.  They created a market, and then they created a product to sell, and we keep buying it because we refuse to believe that success can really be as simple as just hard work, pain, suffering and sacrifice.  And since we are in turn a society that refuses to believe it is hard work that creates results, we now pride ourselves in just how extensive, brutal and stupid our warm ups are, because it’s the only thing we can brag about.  “Your workout is my warm up”, as was never said by a strong person.

This person brags about warm ups.  Strong people are just strong.

Do you think that the great athletes and warriors of history foam rolled?  Do you think vikings performed mobility drills before battle?  Or ever?  Strong people got strong by doing things that strong people do.  I have seen a lot of weak and broken people performing mobility drills and rehab, whereas I have seen lots of strong people crushing heavy weights and smashing records.  If you want to get mobile, do you think the best way is in isolation, alone on your carpet watching re-runs of the Simpsons, or do you think maybe you should just go be mobile?  Play some sports, go hiking, get in a fight, do something where you force your body to move.

“But wait, some strong people have extensive warm ups” you cry out.  Here we discover those that are attempting to falsely emulate success.  They observe an athlete at high levels of strength that needs to foam roll, perform mobility work, and engage in an extensive process before they can actually start training.  We need to understand that this athlete warms up this way out of necessity, not desire.  It is inevitable that, as we get stronger, we get broken.  This is not a safe journey, and those that pursue it will encounter various injuries and dysfunctions that will hinder daily functions.  When this happens, it becomes necessary for this athlete to get themselves in a somewhat functional state before they can train, ironing out the kinks in their body and breaking up scar tissue so that they can actually move from A to B.

After something like this, you may need to spend a little more time warming up

For those of you emulating these warm ups, I must ask, how did YOU get so broken?  Steve Pulcinella got broken by deadlifting over 700lbs as a teenager and competing in the World’s Strongest Man, along with 30 years of being a strength athlete.  Dave Tate got broken through decades of geared powerlifting where he tore practically every muscle on his body off the bone.  Do you expect me to believe that “sitting all day” is going to have the same destructive impact on your body that you need to follow their warm ups?  Or those 3 seasons of soccer in high school really tore up your knees?  Why do so many people know what an anterior pelvic tilt is, let alone “know” that they have one and need to fix it through hours of stretching, massage, colon cleansing, meditation and prayer?

Before we decide that we need to spend 20 minutes warming up, why don’t we first work up to being strong enough to need that warm up?  Until then, how about we just stick with the tried and true light sets of the movement we are training, ramping up to a working weight?  Or 5 minutes on the treadmill?  Wait until something is broken before you try to fix it.

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