Next time you step into a gym, take a moment to look around and note anyone who jumps right into a workout without warming up. Maybe they did a couple of light stretches and some arm swings to loosen up the shoulders, but that would've taken maybe a minute or two and in all likelihood it didn't do anything for them.
But I can't judge too harshly. In fact, when I first started training years ago, I hated warming up. I hated it so much that I would actually skip entire workouts. My reasoning was that it was better to skip the workout than to risk an injury from not doing the warmup at all.
It seems silly, I know, but as trends in fitness have gotten more people to workout we've also seen more injuries. And though we can't say that a lack of a warmup is a primary cause for injury, it is certainly a significant factor and one that shouldn't be overlooked.
What is a Proper Warmup?
A proper warmup can look like a lot of different things because how you warmup should be directly related to what you'll be doing that day. However, all warmups should at the very least do three things: bring your core temperature up (even if it means breaking a sweat to do so), mobilize joints and potentiate muscles and movement patterns.
For example, light stretching of the hamstrings and animal movements is good for calisthenics skill work, but a one way to ticket to Snap City if you decide to pull a 1RM deadlift. What would work better for that 1RM attempt is heavy kettlebell swings, high rep hip thrusts and explosive bar work to potentiate the muscles and get comfortable with the hinge movement pattern.
Another great way to think about warmups is that they can be used to turn on weak or lagging muscles. If you struggle with shoulder pain in a bench press or dip, then just before doing that exercise you should do a couple of light sets for your rotator cuffs and other stabilizer muscles. In fact, if you've never done that before, I can bet that if you did, you would immediately be pushing more weight with better form in that workout because now you have a solid base to push from.
Fun story: I met a kid once who had been suffering from really bad shoulder pain for almost a year. It got so bad, that he hadn't done a proper push workout in months and was always complaining about losing size and strength in his chest. So I asked him what he was doing about it, if he had seen anyone, and if he was warming up before his workouts. He replied, "No and no. Warming up is so boring." I rest my case.
Make Your Warmups Fun!
"Make your current 1RM your warmup."
Here's the thing - a proper warmup is never boring because it should simulate the main workout which is what you're actually excited about. If you start your workout with a similar approach to your main work, I can guarantee that you won't be skipping your workout or flirting with injury. It also builds extra volume into your training which supports your efforts in getting bigger and stronger.
And warmups don't have to - and shouldn't - be long! In fact, if you're just an average gym-goer, keeping it to a max of 15 minutes is really all that's required. Remember, the point is not to fatigue yourself, but to turn the body on and prepare it for the intensity that is to come. If your core temperature is up, if your muscles are turned on, if you're familiar with the movement pattern, then you've just reduced the likelihood of injury tenfold.
But none of that matters if you don't do the warmup in the first place. So do something that gets you excited to workout that directly benefits the main workout. Go for a swim, try a short explosive circuit, or do a little bit of lightweight pre-fatigue in smaller muscles. I guarantee that this shift in perspective will do wonders for your mentality and your performance.