Raise your hand if you’ve ever walked into the gym, short changed your warm up and basically got right into the heart of your workout.
I know I have, and guess what?
The weights felt crappy. My joints didn’t feel warmed up, and I didn’t start feeling ‘good’ until about mid-way through.
Well, today, I’ve got a better way to start doing things.
Pump work, or pre-fatiguing your muscles not only increases blood flow to the areas you’ll be targeting but also helps to increase joint stability and allows you to grow more muscle and burn more fat.
And with great success.
In this article I’ll show you how these ‘bodybuilding’ techniques can benefit anyone looking to gain more muscle or get leaner.
Leg Curls Before Squatting
I absolutely love doing some leg curls prior to squatting.
I first learned about this technique from John Meadows, aka The Mountain Dog, who is an unbelievably smart dude and pro-bodybuilder.
I’ve always been a big fan of placing the big, compound exercises first in the workout. The idea being that you’ll have more energy and thus can lift heavier weights.
If you don’t do the big lifts first, your strength will suffer and your gains won’t be as good.
That’s what I thought at least.
I started implementing leg curls prior to my leg workouts, particularly squat sessions, and my squats felt better and stronger than ever.
When I used to go in for a squat session, I’d do my warm up and then start warming up with the bar.
My legs, hips, and knees take a while to warm up, so I’d have to do tons of warmup sets in order for my squats to start feeling good.
But now, several light sets of leg curls before squatting and my warm up time is cut in half and my body feels good under the bar.
When you do leg curls before squats, you increase blood flow to the hamstrings which I’ve found aids in warming up the knees.
The increased blood flow seems to help create more stability while squatting, almost like a cushion that you can explode out of the hole with.
You don’t even have to go hog-wild for this technique to be effective.
I’ve even started programming these into my online clients‘ training programs more as of late, and the feedback I’m getting on it is awesome. Clients are telling me they feel less joint pain and feel way more stable when handling heavier weights.
So that’s a huge plus.
2-3 sets of 10-15 reps prior to squatting will warm up the knees, push blood to the hamstrings, and will help create stability in the legs. You don’t need a super heavy weight. Keep it fairly light and just get some blood flow going.
The Mountain Dog himself, John Meadows
A lot of people have cranky shoulders. Especially during pressing exercises.
One reason being is that too many people get to the gym and hop right under a bar without doing any sort of warm up.
For any type of horizontal pressing (bench press variations) or vertical pressing (overhead work), try warming the biceps, shoulders, and upper back a bit first before diving straight into the heavier work.
First, you should do a bit of thoracic spine mobility, which will help you get into good positions during each exercise. Without sufficient upper back mobility, you’ll likely compensate and place unnecessary stress on your joints.
For the side-lying windmill shown in the video above, 8 reps per side should be good.
For the quadruped extension-rotation above, 6-8 per side is perfect.
Once you’ve done your upper back mobility, do 2-3 light rounds of these exercises to warm the upper body and prepare you for some pressing.
- Band Pull-Aparts
- Light Rope Pushdowns
- DB hammer curls
- Lateral Raises
Do 15-20 repetitions of each, keeping the weight very light with the main purpose of getting blood flow to the muscles. Once you’ve done this, then move onto your first exercise and you’ll feel 10x better and ready to lift heavier weights.
Change Up Your Exercise Sequence
Building off of the first two above, consider switching up your exercise order before hitting your ‘big’ compound lifts.
The conventional method of lifting has always been to do your compound lifts first and foremost before anything else. While this is how many people should train, and with good reason, others need a bit more of a ‘warm up’ before heaving around heavier weights.
If you’re the latter, then consider the way you sequence your exercises. Instead of doing the big lifts first and accessories or assistance stuff afterwards, flip-flop the two and see how you feel after a month or so.
At first, your top-end strength on the big lifts may go down slightly, but after adapting to the changes in exercise selection, you’ll be right back up to the same strength levels except with less joint pain and body aches.
But that’s ok because lifting maximal weights isn’t how to get jacked and tan.
Hammering the lighter exercises first helps to warm up the joints, and ‘grease’ the body so that when you do hit the bigger compound exercises, you’re properly warmed up.
And if you’ve ever gone straight into barbell work without warming up, then you know exactly what I mean when I say it doesn’t feel too great.
I know if I get right under the bar to start squatting, it might take me 6-8 warmup sets before my knees, hips, and legs start to feel ok.
Here’s an example of how you could sequence a leg workout with this modified exercise order:
A1) Seated or Lying leg curls 3-4x 8-10 reps
B1) DB Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3x 8-10 reps
C1) Bulgarian Split Squats 2x 10/side
D1) High Bar Squats 4 sets of 8-12 reps
E1) Leg Press 3 sets of 15 reps
You’ll notice the bigger exercises, squats and leg presses are towards the end of the workout. By this time, your legs ought to be pretty warmed up and pumped full of blood.
You won’t need to use quite as much weight as you normally would when you first start out.
But, over time, even after ‘pre-fatiguing’ your legs, your squat weight will increase. That’s the true sign of making progress. When you’re already slightly fatigued but your legs can still handle increases in weight over the course of a training cycle.
Continue With the Basics
I’m not suggesting you completely abandon the tried and true barbell exercises.
Not at all.
All I’m saying is to give these techniques a try and see how they work for you.
For most people (everyone honestly), looking and feeling better is the name of the game.
Placing more emphasis on feeling the muscles work, getting a bit sore from time to time, and leaving the ego at the door could be the best thing you’ve ever done for results.
Give it a shot. You might be surprised by how good you feel.