Squats are one of the most effective lower-body workouts in the fitness scene. Simple as they seem, they are actually quite physically demanding.
Performing squats with proper form and a complete range of motion is essential. If not, they can yield more health risks than benefits. A good pre-squat workout warm-up can prep the body for this exercise and help avoid squatting injuries.
How to do a squat warm up?
Squats require a good balance of both flexibility and stability in the body. Warming up before squats helps to get your muscles fired up and ready for the same. A squat warm-up takes you through a proper mobility drill, preparing every part of your body for the squat movement.
Let’s look at the different warm-up exercises you can do to activate the regions of your body involved in the squatting process.
Leg muscles activation: Hip, Knee, and Ankle Mobility
It goes without saying that squatting is a leg-dominant movement. Your quads, hamstrings, and glutes work in synergy to get you through the squatting movement. You can try foam rolling your hamstrings, quads and glutes.
- Foam roll your calves, hamstrings, and glutes – 30 seconds each
A good squat warm-up will help fire up these muscles in preparation for the workout. Here are a few warm-up moves for your hips, knees, and ankles:
Hip mobility exercises
Knee mobility exercises
- Knee bends – 20 reps
- High knees – 20 reps on each side
- Butt kicks – 20 reps on each leg
- Ankle circles – 10 circles (each foot in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction)
- Heel walks – 20 steps
- Eccentric calf raise – 10 reps
Trunk muscles: Lats, traps, and abs
The trunk is the upper region of the human body, excluding the head and the legs. The region includes all the major muscle groups, such as the chest, shoulders, back, and abs. The trunk muscles KENHUB: Muscles of the trunk can be divided into:
- The anterior (front) trunk muscles – the pectoralis major, rectus abdominis, and external oblique
- The posterior (back) trunk muscles – the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and erector spinae
While squatting, the trunk works hard to maintain an upright position. In fact, engaging the core is an important part of squatting with proper form.
A good squat warm-up will help fire up these muscles, preparing them for the workout ahead. Try the following warm-up stretches and exercises to activate your trunk muscles:
- Push-ups – 10 reps
- Planks – hold for 30 seconds
- Bird-dogs – 20 reps on both sides
Traps: Cobra pose – hold for 30 seconds
- Cat-cow pose – 20 reps
- Back extensions – 10 reps
- Banded pull-aparts – 20 reps
Central Nervous System Activation
Activating your central nervous system (CNS) before any workout maximizes your capacity to execute the exercises. The CNS is responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles. Activating it through warm-up exercises will prepare your brain for the intense activity that the body is going to undertake.
Ideally, a CNS activation plan should incorporate general warm-ups and explosive movements. A simple pre-squat workout CNS activation plan would look like:
- Skipping – 2 minutes
- Jumping jacks – 20 reps
- Mountain climbers – 30 seconds
- Plank tucks – 30 seconds
Reasons to do warm-up for squat
Performing warm-up exercises before any workout is both important and extremely beneficial. A study analyzing the impact of warming up PubMed: Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis on physical performance proved that warming up improved performance in 79% of the criteria examined.
Squat workouts are particularly demanding on the body. They need specific forms of motor strengths, flexibilities, and balance. Warm-up exercises can prep your body and the specific joints and muscles needed to squat effectively.
Here are 4 reasons you should never skip warm-ups before your squat workout:
1. Prepares your mind and body
As mentioned above, certain forms of warm-up exercises are capable of activating your central nervous system. This prepares your mind and body for the squat workout you are about to perform. This conscious syncing of the brain and the body is known as the mind-muscle connection Arizona State University: The Mind-Muscle Connection. It ensures that each muscle is properly targeted during the process of squatting.
2. Muscle activation
Squat workouts employ the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. For proper execution and for safety during the performance, it is important to warm up and loosen these muscles. A good squat warm-up will help fire up these muscles and prepare them for the workout.
3. Improves flexibility
The hip, knee, and ankle joints come together to execute a basic squat movement. Therefore, these joints must be healthy and supple.
Moreover, squats require a certain amount of flexibility in your lower back too. Squat warm-ups can ensure that your joints are ready for the squat workout, thereby increasing the range of motion.
4. Prevents injury
When the joints employed in a specific exercise are not supple enough, they create compensatory movement patterns National Library of Medicine: FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT SCREENING: THE USE OF FUNDAMENTAL MOVEMENTS AS AN ASSESSMENT OF FUNCTION ‐ PART 1. Such compensatory movements or even incomplete movements can pose a risk of injury.
These injuries and other forms of physical damage, such as muscle soreness, can be prevented by following a well-worked-out squat workout plan with good warmup exercises.
It is not impossible to warm up the wrong way or at the wrong level of intensity. Doing that would put your health and fitness levels at risk. Plus, it cancels out the potential benefits you would derive from your squat workout. So, here are a few things to keep in mind regarding squat warm-ups:
- Perform your warm-up exercises and stretches with complete focus. Mindful execution of these exercises will increase their effectiveness.
- Make sure you perform just enough reps of your warm-up exercises to fire up your body for the workout. Overdoing it will result in fatigue, making it difficult to perform the actual squats.
- If you are performing loaded squats, do not miss the CNS activation part of the warm-up.
- Take the advice of your personal fitness coach or health expert to choose squat warm-ups that will specifically work around your squat performance, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Pay attention to any signs of pain or discomfort during the squat warm-up and seek help immediately. This will act as a warning sign and prevent you from suffering any major injuries during the workout.
Squats require specific warm-up exercises that target the lower body and increase the strength and flexibility in this region. Use the exercises and stretches mentioned above, or get a personal fitness trainer to create a warm-up/squat workout plan suited to your needs. You will reap more benefits from the squats you perform with a proper warm-up routine than from squatting away at your whim.
|↑1||KENHUB: Muscles of the trunk|
|↑2||PubMed: Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis|
|↑3||Arizona State University: The Mind-Muscle Connection|
|↑4||National Library of Medicine: FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT SCREENING: THE USE OF FUNDAMENTAL MOVEMENTS AS AN ASSESSMENT OF FUNCTION ‐ PART 1|