How Your Warm-Up is Slowing Down Gains

This article was written and shared by Ben Lawson, ISSA CPT and Owner of Lawless Fitness

When I ask people why they warm-up the number one response is, “to prevent injury”. Although that’s a positive side effect of an effective warm-up, there is so much more to it than that.

The problem is when I talk about mobility or warming up properly I lose the bodybuilders, most power-lifters, cross-fitters and all the gym bros. Most will tune out and file this in the woo-woo hipster fitness crowd who can’t stop talking about Ayahuasca retreats, Paleo, Keto or the latest CBD product. Because lets face it the bulk of those tuning in are 20 something year olds who never get injured and will live forever, right? NO! Stop, and keep reading.

The Problem

These days, most of the population is very stationary. We spend a lot of time sitting, just feeding muscle imbalances like rounded shoulder, tight hamstrings, sore lowback, etc. If you don’t focus specifically on proper form and mobility those imbalances will come back to haunt you when you’re only maximizing them by not actively working against them in the gym (or home for the home workout crowd).

The thought behind the warm-up to prevent injury is the same group that will jump on the nearest cardio machine, maybe break a sweat in 5 minutes and jump into a warm-up set followed promptly by a heavy compound move. This will get the blood pumping, sweat going, yada yada. But is it really the best thing you can do?

The Fix

In that same amount of time I can perform a mobility warm-up session that will not only prime my muscles and joints for my workout session but will also create mindmuscle connection. Allowing your body to make the connection is the real reason for a warm-up and will also prime in a way that will not only prevent injury but also help you make more gains. You hear that 20 something year old. More gains!

How does one “prime” this way? I’ve included a few of my favorite priming movements with a brief explanation.

The movements

Most have a hard time achieving proper depth in a squat; typically the cause is from stiff ankles. Try this move:

[Wall Ankle Mobility Rock]
5-10 each

Don’t focus on calf stretch of the back foot, rock front ankle to slowly go further and further without letting your front heal come off the ground

If you need to mobilize quads, try this:

[Scorpion Kicks]
5-10 each

Lie flat on the floor, rotate hips and touch toe as high up as you can without picking chest up off the ground

I, like most struggle with tight hamstrings and low back, these next few are a must for your posterior chain (back, butt, hamstrings):

[Wide Leg plank to Downward Dog]

Foot placement should be wide, Try to push chest to the floor in up position, keep legs straight, hold for about 3-5 seconds

[90/90 Stretch]
5 to each position

Sit with back straight up, hinge at hips and go forward as much as you can until your back starts to rounds forward. Aim your chest towards your knee for 5 then to your calf for 5 then to your foot for 5.

[Glute Activated Hip Thrust]
(Bonus: do these before squats for the best glute targeted workout you can do)


Lie on your back and rotate your pelvis so your low back is flat on the floor. Hold a foam roller between legs to keep tension then using constant tension on your glutes to rise to the top position and then lower. Use a slow pace.

[Standing High Kicks] 
5-10 each

In a quick motion let our leg swing through trying to keep it as straight as possible

The last few moves will help with your shoulder health and decrease injury while connecting to the shoulders:

[Arm Reach Through]
3-5 each

With opposing arm reach between arm and leg trying to touch the back of your shoulder to the floor, keep the back of your hand to the ground.

[Shoulder Dislocations] 

Use a broom handle or stick (shown with jump rope) Rotate all the way around without letting go, grab wide enough to rotate without injury

[Shoulder around the Worlds front/back (Against Wall-not pictured)] 
5 rotations each way

Stand perpendicular to a wall and Swing your arm around 360 degrees to the front while keeping your hand against the wall the entire time then to the back

[Scapular Retractions] 

Without bending arms move up and down only at the shoulder joints

There you go, 10 moves that should take no longer than 5-10 minutes to prime the entire body, warm up major joints, help you prevent injury and connect with the body for upcoming workout. The great thing is this is totally customizable. If you’re just hitting upper body you can focus on shoulder moves, just lower body then just quad and posterior chain moves. If something is really unbalanced on your body, i.e. poor ankle mobility, you can perform Ankle Wall Mobility whenever you want through the day, in fact the more the better. Helping your body this way will increase your range of motion (fuller moves=more muscle recruitment=more gains) and connect to achieve a next level physique! Give them a try today.

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