COMPLETE LOWER BODY WARM UP & MOBILITY ROUTINE
Last week I provided you with a complete warm up sequence that you could follow prior to your upper body workouts (click here to access that post) and today I’ll be following that up with an effective lower body warm up and mobility routine that you can use on leg days as well.
As I covered previously, properly warming up prior to your workouts is an important means of injury prevention and performance optimization by increasing the body’s core temperature, improving joint lubrication and mobility, and firing up the nervous system and muscles to prepare them for the work ahead.
The lower body warm up and mobility routine below contains a good balanced mixture of dynamic movements, self-myofascial release exercises and stretches to help you accomplish exactly that and by only having to commit between 10-15 minutes of your time.
I understand that these sorts of routines are not the most fun or exciting thing in the world, but when your entire program is halted due to a sudden injury, you’ll have wished you had just taken those extra 10-15 minutes to warm up.
Not only that, but the benefits that you obtain from these exercises will not only positively impact your workout program but will also carry over to your regular day to day life as well.
Here it is…
Complete Lower Body Warmup & Mobility Routine
#1 – Thoracic-Spine Extensions x 4 sets of 5
For this exercise you can either use a “peanut” (2 tennis balls that have been fully taped together) or a foam roller. Either one is acceptable, but if you do have the time to purchase a couple tennis balls and some athletic tape, you’ll ideally want to use that.
Position the peanut so that the tennis balls are resting on either side of your spine, beginning a couple inches above your lumbar area. From there, perform a series of 5 crunches while holding your arms straight forward at a 45 degree angle, leaning back into the peanut or foam roller and allowing your head to touch the floor each time.
After you’ve done 5 reps in that position, move the peanut or foam roller up your back a couple of inches and then perform another 5 reps.
You’ll want to do 4 sets of 5 reps in total here, gradually moving from your mid/lower back up to your/mid-upper back. Make sure not to place the pressure directly on your lumbar or cervical spine, as those are not areas that require mobility work.
#2 – Foam Roll: IT Band x 10-12 per side
Lay on your side with the foam roller directly underneath your IT band, which is a fascial strip of tissue that runs from your hip down to your knee on the side of your upper leg. This is an area that is particularly tender in many people, especially if you spend most of your day sitting.
You can keep both legs stacked on top of eachother as seen in the picture above, or if that’s too painful to start with, cross over the top leg in front of you and place your foot on the floor.
Once you’ve gotten into position, perform 10-12 slow rolls running from your hip all the way down to just above your knee. If you find a spot that is particularly tender, you can stop in that position for a few seconds to really focus on that area. Repeat on the other leg.
#3 – Ball Roll: Glutes x 30-60 seconds
You’ll ideally want to use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball for this one, though you can use a medicine ball or foam roller as well if that’s all you have available.
Sit on the floor and place the ball directly underneath your glute, crossing your leg over top of the opposite thigh. From there, begin slowly rolling the ball around your entire glute area for anywhere from 30-60 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
Once again, if you find specific points that are quite stiff/tender, hang out in that position for a few extra seconds until the pain subsides.
This is another exercise that will typically be quite uncomfortable at the start, but the pain will gradually reduce over time with continued work.
#4 – Cat-Cow Stretch x 10-12
Kneel on all fours with your lower back neutral, knees directly underneath your hips and hands directly underneath your shoulders.
Inhale to start, and then drop your belly toward the floor and arch your lower back while curling your head upward and shifting your gaze toward the ceiling. Pause briefly, and then reverse the motion by exhaling, rounding your spine and curling your head downward while shifting your gaze toward your belly.
Repeat 10-12 times in total.
#5 – Bent-Knee Iron Cross x 10-12 per side
Lay flat on your back with your arms extended straight out to either side. Raise your legs up off the ground with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and knees at a 90 degree angle.
From there, simply drop your knees to one side while at the same time dropping your head in the opposite direction, and then reverse the motion by dropping your knees and head the other way. Repeat this motion for 10-12 reps in total.
#6 – Knee Circles x 10-12 per side
Kneel on all fours with your knees directly beneath your hips and hands directly beneath your shoulders. With your arms straight and belly button pulled in, pull your heel up to your butt and begin “drawing circles” in the air with your knee. The idea here is to make the largest circles as possible with your knee without allowing the position of your upper body to change.
Do 10-12 circles in one direction, and then reverse the motion by doing them in the opposite direction. Repeat on the other leg.
#7 – Leg Swings x 10-12 per side/direction
Stand facing against a wall or any other object you can place your hands on for support. Put all your weight on one foot and pick the other leg up off the ground. Now, simply swing that leg from side to side as far as you comfortably can in each direction while keeping your core tight.
Once you’ve completed 10-12 reps from side to side, turn your body in the other direction and perform the same swinging motion, except this time going from front to back. Repeat on the other leg.
#8 – Ankle Mobility Stretch x 10-12 per side
Stand facing against a wall with your foot flat on the floor a few inches away from the wall and your other foot behind you. Hold onto the wall for support, and then slowly lean your knee toward the wall in a squatting motion without allowing your heel to come up off the ground, really focusing on improving the range of motion in your ankle. Repeat on the other foot.
As your ankles become increasingly mobile and you’re able to touch the wall with your knee, you can slowly position your feet further and further back.
#9 – Hip Flexor Stretch x 30-45 seconds per side
Kneel facing away from a flat bench and place one foot up on the bench, lunging forward with the other. Flex the glute of the leg on the bench and then slowly lean your body upright and backward until you feel a good stretch in your hip flexor. The specific angle that you place your leg at and how forward you lunge forward will depend on your individual flexibility.
Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds and then repeat on the other leg.
#10 – Lying Piriformis Stretch x 30-45 seconds per side
Lay on your back with both knees bent at roughly 90 degree angles and bring your ankle over top of the opposite thigh. Raise your foot off the ground until your lower legs are roughly parallel to the floor and grip the underside of your thigh with your hands, drawing your knee toward your chest.
Keep your ankle flexed in order to take pressure off of your knee joint, and make sure your head and neck are relaxed on the ground. Hold for 30-45 seconds and repeat on the other side.
#11 – Weight Acclimation x 3
Now that you’ve completed your stretching and mobility work, you’ll finish off the warmup with 3 “weight acclimation sets” for the first primary compound exercise in your workout.
You’ll do this by starting off with a light weight for higher reps, followed by a medium weight for low reps, and finishing with your actual working weight for a single rep. This will help to warmup the muscles and joints involved in the exercise and prime your CNS to help you perform at your maximum potential.
Here’s the basic breakdown you can use for this…
Set #1: 50% x 8 reps
Set #2: 75% x 3 reps
Set #3: 100% x 1 rep
So, if squats were the first exercise in your workout and you were planning to use 225 pounds on your first set, you’d warmup with 125 x 8, 170 x 3, and 225 x 1.
These warmup sets should not tire you out whatsoever or drain any of your strength, so make sure to take things slowly and adjust the weight/reps if you feel fatigued in any way.
Complete Lower Body Warm Up & Mobility Routine Recap
So, here is a rundown of the entire routine once again…
#1 – Foam Roll: Lower Back (Middle/Left/Right) x 10-12 per area
#2 – Thoracic-Spine Extensions x 4 sets of 5
#3 – Foam Roll: IT Band x 10-12 per side
#4 – Ball Roll: Glutes x 30-60 seconds per side
#5 – Cat-Cow Stretch x 10-12
#6 – Bent-Knee Iron Cross x 10-12
#7 – Knee Circles x 10-12 per side
#8 – Leg Swings x 10-12 per side/direction
#9 – Ankle Mobility Stretch x 10-12 per side
#10 – Hip Flexor Stretch x 30-45 seconds per side
#11 – Lying Piriformis Stretch x 30-45 seconds per side
#12 – Weight Acclimation x 3
Give this routine a try and you should notice a marked improvement in your overall workout quality after a few consistent weeks.
If you found these tips helpful, make sure to get your personalized training, nutrition and supplement plans using my free interactive video presentation below…