How to Make Your Warm Up The Best Part of Your Workout

February 15, 2019

Currently in the strength and conditioning world there is a big move towards animal movements, crawling and calisthenic type training.

Which in my mind is fantastic. Since I grew up in the martial arts and now train a lot of martial artists this kind of movement training has always been in my vocabulary but seeing start to filter into the mainstream is fantastic in my opinion. I do get a lot of questions though from people who are struggling with how to apply it to their training to get the results they want. Now, I'm going to quote Dan John here so you know I'm serious....

“Make your warm up your workout”

How does that quote help us? Warming up is where we want to increase joint range of motion and raise the body temperature in preparation for the training to come. It's also the perfect time to target weak links in our chain. These animal style movements are the perfect opportunity to do all of this. If we take Dan's advice and treat the warm up with respect, we can have a good solid 10-15 minute block of work where we use animal and calisthenic style movement to open up our body and get the joints flowing ready for the heavy lifting that will follow. warm up reaching lungeSo why not open with some deep walking lunges, keeping the back leg as straight as possible and feeling the hips open up. Add in a reach with each step, reach forward (get your belly onto your thigh), reach upwards, reach left or right. Maybe change the reach every 5 steps. Feel the hips and spine open out as you walk. Then get down onto all fours and crawl. There are many variations on the crawling theme, all of which promote a good movement relationship between the hips and shoulder, which as a result promotes good spinal movement, which as a result promotes good activation of all the core / torso musculature. Now you tell me how that's not a good thing!

The simplest crawl is the Bear:

Keep the hips high and all four limbs extended as you crawl. I like people to start with this one as it's the least physically demanding, but still gives all the benefits. Be sure to move the left arm with the right leg and vice versa. warm up bear crawlOnce you're moving smoothly with control traveling forwards, try going backwards, then sideways. Never loose that opposing limb gait pattern though, left arm with right leg, right arm with left leg. It may be more difficult than you think at first! From the Bear we go to a hips low pattern. This increases the physical demand as greater mobility and strength are needed.

warm up leopard crawlThe Leopard Crawl...

...simply has the knees floating just above the floor, the Spiderman brings the knees out wide to touch the same side elbow.

The Spider Man...

warm up spiderman crawl...then can be practiced with a push up on each step, a one arm push up on each step or staying low as if crawling under a fence. Expect to be humbled by the spider man the first few times, especially if you work in different directions.

We also have the crab crawl...

warm up...probably the least used variation. This is where your on all fours but facing the ceiling. If you use this do your up most to keep the chest high and the shoulders down, and use the legs to drive the movement. If you drive with the legs you'll get an astonishing hamstring activation as you travel forwards and in the quads as you go backwards. As you keep lifting that chest you'll get into the upper back too which is useful. Be awre though, if you are unable to keep the chest up you may end up hanging off the shoulder joint and you can cause yourself issues, the shoulder doesn't like being loaded while in hyper extension which why we don't use this very often. But if you can control it and sit on the upper back rather that hang from the shoulder, go nuts with this.

Here's a sample sequence you can play with yourselves:

Goblet Squat x 10 Walking Lunge with a forwards reach (glute and low back emphasis) x 10-12 meters Bear crawl back to start Walking lunge with upwards reach (hip flexor emphasis) x 10-12m Spider Man crawl back to start Walking Lunge with rotation to right on each step x 10-12m Leopard Crawl back to start Walking Lunge with rotation to left on every step x 10-12 Crab crawl back to start Goblet Squat x 10. You are now warm, lose, mobile and probably smiling. Go lift something heavy. Regards

Dave HedgesDave Hedges

Dave is the Strength Coach for Wild Geese Martial Arts and Fitness. He holds several black belts himself and has competed in Kettlebell Sport competitions, although these days he spends most of his time training his clients which range from Mums to Mountain Bikers, Fighters to Free Runners and everything in between. For Daves personal blog go to and for his gym,

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