The cold weather is already here, depending on where you live.
I don’t mind the cold that much, maybe it’s my Czech blood. I like putting the fireplace to use and I enjoy the occasional snow storm.
One thing I don’t like about the winter though, is having cold joints. Most people don’t like working out in colder seasons. I think that’s a big part of the reason that you see the gym population fall off after summer ends, up until the dreaded New Year’s Resolution crowd shows up.
In this article I’m going to share a few things I do to get my joints warmed up before working out. I typically do these routines year round, but I might skip it here and there in warmer weather. In the cold weather though, I spend a little extra time getting nice and loose before doing any sort of weight lifting.
Injury prevention is always better than injury rehabilitation.
How Temperature Affects Your Body
Cold weather has a way of making your body feel 20 years older. Your joints get stiff, your muscle get tight and it’s harder to move.
That’s why we have to combat this cold weather by spending extra time to warm our bodies up.
The added warmth helps by doing 3 things:
- Increasing blood circulation
- Loosening up the muscles
- Increasing range of motion
These are 3 things we want to prime our bodies before an intense workout.
The first step in my warm-up routine actually starts on the way to the gym. This might not be applicable for you if you workout at home or don’t have to drive as far.
The drive to the gym takes me 15-20 minutes. During that time I sip on a warm cup of coffee and blast the heat in my car to the point that I am sweating very mildly. This way I am already feeling warm and loose when I get to the gym. I do this before every workout in cold weather.
At times when I haven’t had to drive as far, I sit in my car for 5-10 minutes outside of the gym and sip on my coffee while I get my mind right.
If you don’t drive to the gym, throw on a bunch of layers and walk around your house for a bit. It shouldn’t take too long to get a very light sweat going if you put enough layers on.
Upper Body Cold Weather Warm-up Routine
This is the routine I follow whenever I am doing any sort of upper body training.
It starts off with the shoulders. You don’t have to lift weights for a long time to realize how easy it is to hurt your shoulder. Especially with everyone’s favorite exercise – the flat barbell bench press.
The shoulder is the link to all upper body movements. When your shoulder has to rest, your entire upper body has to rest. Which is why I have made a habit of ALWAYS warming up the shoulders before any upper body lifting.
First I start off with some shoulder dislocations.
These are typically done at home with a broom stick or in the gym with something similar. Most gyms have an area for stretching and you’ll see some padded bars or a stick that resembles a broom handle.
If you aren’t flexible enough to use a bar, then start off with some weight bands. I personally prefer the weight bands myself. I will grab the band with a wide grip to keep the resistance weaker. Then every 5 reps or so I will increase the resistance by using a more narrow grip on the band.
Take it easy if you’ve never done these before and you will likely be sore the first few times.
It won’t take long for your mobility to improve and you will no longer get sore from this exercise.
Next I do a circuit with VERY light dumbbells. I’m talking 5-10 lbs and never more than 15 lbs.
I’ll typically do a quick circuit of 10-15 external rotations (most people attach a band to something sturdy for this, but I use dumbbells) and then 10-15 scarecrows.
Here’s the external rotation I’m talking about:
(She looks miserable in that video, I try to enjoy myself in the gym)
And here’s what a scarecrow looks like:
After that I go to my first exercise of my workout for the day and proceed to do my warm-ups for that exercise as normal.
By the time I do my first working set my shoulders, elbows and wrists are good to go.
One thing I do in the winter that I don’t do during the warmer months is wear a hoodie in the gym. This is something I just started doing in the last year. I used to wear a sweatshirt and take it off once I got warmed up. Now I keep it on for the entire workout when I train upper body during cold months.
That little bit of extra heat keeps my joints feeling very comfortable and it helps me break a sweat too.
Lower Body Cold Weather Warm-up Routine
For lower body I keep it pretty simple.
When I get to the gym I hop on the stationary bike for 5 minutes or so. I set the resistance challenging enough to get some blood flowing to the muscles, but not challenging enough to fatigue my legs before lifting. This will also get the knees and ankles nice and lubed for the real workout.
After that, I head over to the adductor/abductor machine. I know a lot of guys don’t want to be seen on this machine, but I don’t care. I use a light weight and do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise.
This will get the hips and groin warmed up, which really helps with mobility for squats and deadlifts.
One thing I’ve added in the last year has been Rehband Knee sleeves. During warm weather I only wear these on days where I’m doing heavy squats. In the winter I wear them for every lower body workout.
Unlike knee wraps, these don’t boost your strength or anything. Their purpose is to keep your knees warm to prevent injury. Once you’ve had these knee sleeves on for about 10 minutes your knees feel like they are in a sauna. It’s awesome!
These aren’t completely necessary, but if you have the extra money they are worth looking into. They are a little pricey, but at the time these were the best available. You’ll have to measure your quad, just above your knee to determine your size. I went with a size smaller and that’s what most reviewers recommend as well.
Between the warm-up and those knee sleeves, my legs feel great despite the cold weather.
Those are my simple and effective routines to stay warm and prevent injuries when cold weather strikes.
Remember, fitness is a lifelong journey. Start taking care of your body now so you can enjoy it when you’re old.
Until Next Time,
P.S. What do you like to do to warm-up for workouts in the winter? Let me know in the comments.
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