Optimal preparation for a training session comes down to a few things; the hours you slept the night before, the amount of food and water you've consumed over the last 24 hours, and the way you warm up and mobilize the body for a training day.
A warm-up exercise intends to target and activate muscle groups and mobilize the joints while raising the heart rate to increase blood flow. This should be a relatively short process, with a typical warm-up routine lasting between 5-15 minutes depending on your injury history, age, or schedule.
Regarding volume and intensity for warm-up exercises, keep the intensity level between 20-50% and the volume moderate. The goal is to prepare the body for meaningful activity, not waste energy performing the latest social media influencer warm-up routine for the next half hour.
At Westside, kettlebells are one of our go-to tools for warming up and mobilizing for a training day. Kettlebells are great because they allow you to move your body in all planes of motion, making them useful no matter what is in store for the training day. Kettlebells are also easier on the joints, placing less stress on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders than a dumbbell or a barbell.
Here are a few lower body kettlebell exercises we use at Westside Barbell to prepare our athletes for max effort and dynamic effort training:
Lower Body Kettlebell Warm-Up Exercises
KB Swings - this exercise is the most commonly used kettlebell exercise at Westside Barbell. This exercise can be used on any training day, considering the swing targets the glutes, hips, and lumbar spine along with the rest of the spine-supporting muscle groups.
KB Goblet Squats - to properly warm up the lower body, we need to get the knees moving and prepare the body to brace. Goblet squats achieve both, with the squat targeting the hamstrings, quads, and glutes, and the kettlebell hold targeting the trunk, mid, and upper back.
KB Jump Squats - this exercise is a great way to prepare for a dynamic lower body training day. To perform a jump squat correctly, you want to squat down slightly above parallel while holding the kettlebell at the center of the torso. Athletes should perform this exercise with a weight they can manage safely.
KB Lunges - this exercise is useful for preparing the legs and hips for squatting or jumping. Lunges will warm up the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors. When performing lunges, you want to keep your stride length normal, ensuring not to overstretch the hamstrings.
KB Front Squats - an effective way to warm up the legs, trunk, and upper back; kettlebell front squats are another of our go-to lower body warm-up exercises. Unlike the goblet squat, where you will hold a single kettlebell center mass, the front squat calls for two kettlebells to be held upright along the forearms at the clavicle level, similar to how you'd carry a barbell for a front squat.
KB Leg Raises - this exercise allows us to target the abdominal muscles and hip flexors using a common abdominal exercise and a kettlebell. To perform a KB leg raise, you will lay on your back just as you would for standard leg raises, except you will use your feet to grab and lift a kettlebell. Keep in mind that this exercise does not take much weight to be effective. 10-15lbs can typically do the trick.
How to Program
The programming of warm-up exercises should always be kept simple. Today, too much social media content is focused on the warm-up period of the workout, which should be the least thought-out part of the exercise. It doesn't take much to get the blood flowing and the body ready for training.
All we want to do is prepare ourselves to begin the meaningful warm-up - the sets we perform while working up on the main exercise of the day. Here is how we program warm-ups to ensure we are ready to go without wasting any unnecessary energy:
Exercise 1 - KB Goblet Squats, 2-3 sets of 15 reps
Exercise 2 - KB Swings, 2-3 sets of 20-25 reps
Exercise 3 - KB Leg Raises, 1-3 sets of 12-15 reps
This is all it should take to prepare to begin the warm-up sets of your main exercise of the day. The weight should be light, and the intent should be to reach a point where you feel 'good,' which will vary from athlete to athlete.
It may take a few more sets; that's fine. It may take fewer sets; that's fine. Once again, the goal is to get ready to begin squatting or deadlifting a barbell, not tire an athlete out with exercises intended to contribute to the training process, not be detrimental.
You can perform the same warm-up exercises every time or switch up exercises; accommodation is not a concern here. The goal is to move the body to stimulate the muscles, mobilize the joints, and increase blood flow. Your warm-up should be simple and effective - save the intensity and energy for your main exercise of the day.