Are you guilty of one of these 6 common workout mistakes? Find out what they are, the appropriate way to fix them, & the perfect warm up regimen to follow!

You just got off work, nuked your food, and inhaled it like flavored oxygen, ripped open your package of new pre-workout, and are ready to get after it.

Once you know what you’re first movement is going to be, you perform 10-12 reps with the bar.

No, those two reps take a few precious seconds I could devote to work sets so 10 it is, and then immediately you’re off and running with another great workout.

Mentally, you’ve been anticipating this training session all day and can’t get started quick enough.

Meanwhile, your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints are all thinking in unison, “what the heck, dude? Can you at least give us a few minutes?”

Look, it’s awesome that you’re so passionate and enthusiastic about going head to head with the weights and making serious gains but let’s think for a minute about why we’re doing this.

We train to improve our muscles and bodies, right? So it should make sense that the body needs to be ready for what you’re about to do.

That doesn’t happen if you just roll in, lift heavy, and leave.

Unfortunately, many people out there in your local gyms just simply don’t take their warm up process that seriously.

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Why This is a Problem

You might be thinking this is going to be the typical statement about how you can get injured if you don’t warm up enough. While it’s true that you’re more likely to get hurt, I want to discuss this issue from a more positive perspective. You want to have a great workout when you go to the gym, correct?

Related: Pocket Guide to Warm-ups, Pre-hab, Foam Rolling

I’m guessing you didn’t commit to a bunch of meals, buy supplements, invest in a gym membership, and take selfie after selfie just because you were bored. You have goals. You want to make gains. Every single workout you perform can either get you one step closer to those goals or can be a waste of time.

If you decide that you’re going to prepare your mind and body into making this workout the best workout of your life, then the chances of success and progress are that much greater and all of that investment will see a great return.

Got it? Good, now let’s cover these mistakes and how to fix them so you can get back to becoming awesome.

M&S Female Athlete Warming Up Before Working Out

Mistake #1: Not Really Understanding Why You Need To Warm Up

When you get on that treadmill or elliptical and stretch out before you go to lift, do you try to listen to music and tune out what you perceive is the most boring few minutes of your day? If so, this is a problem. If you’re warming up like it’s an obligation, then you really aren’t going to reap all of the benefits that warming up offers.

The Fix: Remember Why You Warm Up

While you’re warming up and preparing, think about why you’re doing this. You’re doing this with the goal of preparing for an iron assault. You need those muscles to receive nutrient rich blood to enhance the pump. Those joints need to be lubricated with synovial fluid because they will be used a lot over the course of the next hour.

The body is about to lift hundreds of pounds for many reps. Give it the best chance to perform to the best of its ability.

Mistake #2: Rushing Through It

As the minutes tick by and you get closer to the weight room, the anticipation can be building. You start rationalizing that shaving a couple of minutes off of the warm up won’t hurt and you can get after it a little sooner.

You might not feel it on that day but each time you shave a couple of minutes off, you could be inflicting more damage and doing a little more harm than good. All of that little harm can build up and lead to an injury.

The Fix: Commit At Least 15 Minutes

When you’re developing your program, commit the first 15 minutes you’re in the gym to your warm up process. That includes light cardio, mobility work, stretching, and warm up sets. That seems like a lot but you will likely find that the extra few minutes will lead to better numbers with your work sets.

Mistake #3: Not Preparing the Entire Body

Let’s say that today is leg day for you. Since the legs are the focus, you think about preparing the lower body for everything you’re about to do. So that would include lifts like squats, leg press, leg curls and extensions, and maybe stiff legged deads. Oh, and calves at the end of course.

So there’s no need to do any warmups for the upper body, right? Wrong. When you squat, the bar is on your shoulders, you hold the bar for stiff legged deadlifts with the grip in your hands, and you’re on your back for support on the leg press. How do you not prepare for that?

The Fix: Work from the Feet Up

Yes, you need to prepare the entire body for every single workout regardless of what you’re training that day. So, start with the feet and ankles by doing ankle circles or using a ball on your feet.

Then work up to calves with a few light reps of calf raises, do some bodyweight squats for the knees, legs, and hips, and keep working your way up. The routine below will serve you well.

M&S Athlete Performing a Deep Squat

Mistake #4: Not Preparing the Mind

You’re so anxious to get there and lift but you rushed to get there so quick you didn’t give your brain a chance to slow down and think about the process you’re about to complete. Then there is everything on your mind about work, bills, or whatever is happening in your life.

If your head isn’t in it like it should be, then the workout won’t meet its full potential.

The Fix: Slow Down but Go All In

While you’re preparing your body, take that same time to prepare your mind. Whatever is happening outside of the gym is just that right now, outside. You’re in there now and you need to completely prepare for what’s about to happen. What are you training? What lifts will you do? You got a couple more reps in you this week?

Now to be clear, don’t lose that enthusiasm. You’re doing something today to change your body and maybe your life for the better. Be excited about that. Just remember to slow down and enjoy this process and let whatever else is going on wait for the next 45 minutes to an hour.

Mistake #5: Not Focusing on Flexibility

If today is chest day and you’re going to bench, don’t forget to stretch out your hips. Wait, what? Remember even if you’re only training one bodypart, you need to think about the entire body when it comes to warming up.

If you stretch out your hips, you can better position your feet on the floor to get the leverage you need to maximize your ability to bench more weight. In short, focusing on your flexibility in your hips can help your chest.

The Fix: Stretch More

The remedy is simple here. Devote the time you need to so you can stretch every part of your body out and prepare completely for training. That means from feet to neck. Stretch and hold each muscle group for 20-30 seconds each.

Related: The Mental Game - 11 Mindset Tips For Focus and Motivation

Mistake #6: 10 Reps with the Bar

This is among the most committed crimes in warming up. How in the world can you establish a mind muscle connection and prepare your muscles to handle hundreds of pounds for numerous reps by lifting 45 pounds for 10 reps? Come on now. That makes zero sense.

The Fix: Perform at Least 3 Warm Up Sets

You can count the bar as one of those sets but don’t do three sets of 10 with the bar either. After the bar, throw some very light weight on the bar and do 10 more reps. While doing so, think and focus only on the working muscles. Then add a little more resistance and do 10 more reps.

Again, focus on the working muscles. Get that connection so when it comes time to work, you are familiar with how it should feel to you.

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Your New Warm Up Protocol
Exercise Sets Reps/Time
1. Light Cardio (walking, eliptical, or biking) 1 3-4 mins
2a. Ankle circles (each foot) 1 10
2b. Toe Touches 1 10
2c. Bodyweight Squat 1 10
2d. Jumping Jacks 1 10
2e. Situps 1 10
2f. Light Dumbbell Rows 1 10
2g. Pushups 1 10
2h. Arm Circles 1 10
2i. Neck Rolls 1 10
3a. Calf Stretch w/ Heels off of a step 1 30 secs
3b. Standing Hamstring Stretch 1 30 secs
3c. Quad Stretch 1 30 secs
3d. Third World Squat 1 30 secs
3e. Reach for the Ceiling 1 30 secs
3f. Chest Stretch 1 30 secs
3g. Overhead Tricep Stretch 1 30 secs
3h. Hanging Stretch (from pullup bar) 1 30 seconds
4. Warm Up Sets w/ Bar 3 10
Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2017 - 09:51

Hi! i have a little change for MISTAKE #3: NOT PREPARING THE ENTIRE BODY. I finished University of Physical Education and all my teachers (former athletes and doctors) said you need to start from top to bottom with neck, arms, body and feets. Personaly i think both ways are ok if you follow a decent protocol.

Roger Rock Lockridge
Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2017 - 20:14

Hey Zeca. I can see why some folks would feel that way. I've talked to athletes as well and most of them felt that since you stand on your feet, you begin moving from one place to another with the lower body, and stability starts with what touches the ground, that you should warm-up with that thought in mind. As long as the entire body is prepared before intense activity, then which way you go may be preferential. Thanks for reading and your comment.

Roger Rock Lockridge
Posted on: Wed, 12/14/2016 - 20:56

Thanks for sharing my newest article M&S! Much appreciated. Hope you guys reading this enjoy it and benefit from it.