How To Do Dynamic Upper Body Warm Up Exercises Before Workout
The warm up is a necessary part of training that is often not given the time or effort that it deserves. In the gym we all have time constraints and are eager to start training as soon as possible, but you will get a great deal more from your training session if you commit to a structured warm up regardless of the content of your session. Here we will look at how best to warm up the upper body prior to an upper body strength session.
First of all let’s start with how we train the upper body in the first place. There is far more to performing an upper body strength session than training individual muscles based on their anatomical location, for example a chest and triceps session is a very inefficient and ineffective means of training. Instead upper body training should be broken down into pushing and pulling exercises through vertical and horizontal planes. Because of this your warm up should reflect the movements that will follow in the session. This does not mean that your first set of each exercise is a light set before jumping up to your max, instead think about how best to mobilise and stabilise the relevant joints and activate the neuromuscular system for the session ahead.
By mobilising the joints of the upper body you allow yourself to get into far greater range of movement, relieve tightness, and place the joint in its correct anatomical position. Overuse of the same exercises will tighten muscles around a joint, pulling it out of its optimum range and reducing stability. Mobility exercises help to stop this from happening and increase the viscosity of the synovial fluid within the joint capsule, making the joint more supple and less susceptible to an acute injury during your session.
It is not just the prime movers of your upper body that need activating, the muscles that work in synergy with these large muscles, such as the rotator cuffs in the shoulder, also need attention. During an upper body training session the shoulders will be called upon to work in many different planes of movement, meaning that the rotator cuffs should be properly activated in order to perform their role in stabilising the shoulder. Exercises that are ideal at achieving this include overhead squats, straight arm push ups, straight arm pull ups or overhead farmer’s walks. All of these train you to pack your shoulder and achieve a strong position at the end of the range of movement.
Resistance band exercises are excellent to use during the warm up to activate the prime movers of the upper body as well as stabilising muscles like the rotator cuffs. Band pull aparts, shoulder dislocators, front and rear flys are all great ways to warm up your shoulders, chest, back and arms. Resistance bands are really versatile and provide a low-load stimulus that you can vary depending on the tension you place on the band.
Foam rolling is a great way to prepare the body for training and a very worthwhile addition to your warm up. I would recommend foam rolling your entire body regardless of the type of session you are about to perform because all of your muscles work together as a system rather than on an individual basis, but here are just a few areas to target on your upper body. Performing 10-20 rolls on the lumbar and thoracic spine will improve your mobility and prepare the muscles in these areas for the session to come. You can also target your latissimus dorsi by moving onto your side on the roller, as well as your deltoids and pecs by turning onto your front. A hard ball such as a lacrosse ball or golf ball is an excellent tool to work out stubborn trigger points that are hindering your performance. It is always a good idea to roll at the very beginning of the session to prime your neuromuscular system for the session before moving on to mobility and activation.
The spinal column is an essential and often overlooked area of the body during an upper body warm up. The spine forms the majority of your axial skeleton and is the only structural connection between the upper and lower portions of the appendicular skeleton – your upper and lower limbs. Therefore the importance of the role it plays in your training and performance cannot be underestimated and should be a priority during the warm up. It is important for the thoracic spine to remain mobile and the lumbar spine to stay stable during training, so rotating exercises that build range through the t-spine and bracing exercises that maintain the integrity of the lumbar spine should be mainstays of your warm up.
There are lots of different suitable methods to prime your upper body for a session, only some of which have been touched on here. Try out some of the ideas in this article and experiment with your own following the principles laid out here. You will soon find that you start your working sets feeling fresher, more switched on and raring to go!