Great Warm-Up, Great Workout

by Jimmy Smith

Who really enjoys doing warm-ups? It can be hard enough to prepare mentally for a grueling workout without worrying about getting your body geared up for the task, too. Warm-ups are rarely fun and often tedious, but we know they’re extremely important.

So since you have to do it anyway, why not get the most out of your warm-up?

No, no, no, and definitely no.

In our facility, we try to use a different warm-up each training day. We’ve used some very interesting ones, but I have to say one of my favorites is a mobility complex that my good friend Brian Grasso showed me.

The original version was a demanding ground-based, total-body, multi-planar complex consisting of four movements done continuously for 6-8 repetitions each. It promoted mobility of the hips, thoracic spine, and anterior shoulders, while also improving scapular stability. All this is achieved while developing the proper motor patterns needed for the lifts ahead.

This isn’t how we want to get prepared for lifting.

Grasso Complex

Overhead squat 1×8
Lateral lunge 1×8 each leg
Overhead reverse lunge 1×6 each leg
Sots press 1×8

I loved this so much that I made sure my athletes used it once a week. The athletes really felt that it prepped them for the upcoming lifting and we saw some nice improvements in strength and mobility over the course of training.

What’s great about this complex is that it focuses on many of the weaknesses and trouble areas that most athletes have. No matter what age or level they are, it can be tweaked enough to make it very demanding, while still functioning as a thorough warm-up.

Younger athletes and beginners can perform the movements using just a wooden dowel or a very light stick. Our female athletes usually use a light Olympic training bar and our high school and college-level males use a full Olympic bar.

The Next Step

Like many exercises and movements, once you perform them enough, they start to become your own and the difficulty sometimes fades. Once this happens, you either add weight or you add variations.

However, when dealing with mobility and warm-ups, you don’t want to throw on another 100 pounds when you could benefit from simply adding a movement or variation that will make it new again. After a few months of the original complex, I added a few variations and it does the job for getting loose, mobile, and ready to lift.

Just remember, machines have no place in this warm-up.

Grasso-Smith Complex

Like in the previous complex, this is performed using an empty barbell. The goals remain the same as the original, but by adding and adjusting a few movements, it creates a longer and slightly more difficult warm-up.

Overhead squat 1×8
Low lateral squat 1×8 each side
Overhead reverse lunge 1×6 each leg
Romanian deadlift to snatch pull-through 1×8
Drop lunge 1×6 each leg
Sots press 1×8

The exercises Brian originally chose, and the modifications I’ve added, aren’t just arbitrary movements thrown together to make a sweat-filled warm-up. Each movement has a purpose.

The Method To The Madness

The first movement, the overhead squat, is really one exercise I can’t live without. It increases mobility in almost all the major joints of the body and challenges our balance because the weight is so far away from our base of support.

The low lateral squat, which we changed from the lateral lunge due to its increased difficulty, provides a taxing position to be maintained for an extended period of time through a full range of motion.

The Romanian deadlift to snatch pull-through will help us get a little more movement in the hamstrings while drilling in the motion and mobility a full snatch will require down the line.

The overhead reverse lunge will open up those constantly tight hip flexors while also requiring balance, stability, and proper body positioning.

The drop lunge provides a rotational component that will hammer away at the medial glutes and IT band. It’s also a challenge to maintain balance.

Lastly, the Sots press is a more demanding form of the overhead squat. If done properly, it really helps to open up the thoracic spine, which tends to be extremely tight on a lot of athletes, especially younger ones.

Warm-Up Wrap-Up

By using this type of complex, one can enhance mobility in all major joints of the body while also learning proper movement patterns that will turn into strength movements shortly after. Especially in our younger athletes, we can improve both mobility and strength, which tend to be the two biggest flaws with youths.

A good complex can be a highly effective warm-up tool, and it requires very little space, to boot. If you’re training a large group of athletes in a weight room, or if you’re training yourself in a crowded gym, try this complex and watch the results follow.

About The Author

Jimmy Smith, CSCS, is a fitness coach who trains athletes and injured individuals, as well as fitness competitors and enthusiasts in Stamford, Connecticut. In addition, Jimmy is currently advancing his education as a master’s degree student in Human Movement. Visit Jimmy’s website to sign up for his free newsletter.

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