This is an excerpt from Massive, Muscular Arms by David Barr.
One of the best kept training secrets lies in executing a dramatic paradigm shift for what is traditionally thought of as a warm-up. The reality is that when done right, it’s probably the best performance booster we have at our disposal.
Somewhere along the way our warm-up became little more than an obligation. It morphed into “that thing we do because someone told us it might help prevent injuries.” This is a wasted opportunity, every workout.
In order to take full advantage, you will come to think of the warm-up as the preparation phase, or activation phase of your workout. Rather than simply getting your body warm and preventing something that will probably never happen to you anyway (i.e., injuries), your focused activation phase will help you perform better, both mentally and physically. This is the time to get your head in the game, not chat about Instagram posts or how much alcohol you drank last night.
You will still want to perform traditional physical preparation, like brief cardiovascular exercise to help get your blood moving, and dynamic stretching, etc. But after that, you’re going to treat your activation as though you’re getting ready for a fight. No more lazy stretching while you lie around talking about your weekend. This idea was best summed up by PPSC Chief Content Officer David Otey, “If you want to perform optimally, you need to prepare optimally.” (David Otey, pers. comm.).
You will execute your bullet proofing movements with intent and focus on quality. You will practice the exercises that you are going to perform on that day, before you have anything more than body-weight resistance. These activation exercises are not meant to replace exercise-specific warm-up sets of increasing load (e.g., a set of curls with 45 pounds [20.4 kg] , then another with 65 pounds [29.5 kg] , before moving on to your work set), but the body-weight movement will come to enhance those loaded sets.
Performing without load allows you to focus on creating internal tension (focus phase I) and prepares you to execute the loaded movement with maximal force or speed, without the nagging fear of injury. This is where you’ll develop even more confidence to perform that day. You will establish the mind–muscle connection that gives you the mental and physical confidence to crush each lift. If performed with intent and focus, you will feel the difference, immediately.
Your warm-up is dead. Long live activation!
Example of a Squat-Focused Preworkout Activation Plan
- Five minutes on the treadmill
- Three-way Rusin shoulder saver
- Modified bird dogs
- Dead bugs
- Focused body-weight squats
- Jumping jacks