There are 3 steps I use when I'm preparing to workout and you may be surprised to know that not one of them is stretching. From the experts I have studied that are prominent and well-respected in the weightlifting space, including Ben Greenfield, Mike Matthews, Greg Nuckols and more, static stretching does not seem to be beneficial to have in your warm up routine. You may argue that it is better than nothing, and maybe that is true, but there seem to be better ways to prepare for a workout. By no means are all 3 of these steps necessary but, for me personally, I find they help. I will go in consecutive order of what I do when I am preparing for a workout. Let's go through it...
Step 1: Use Pre-workout
If you are skeptical on if caffeine is good to supplement with for a workout or are just interested in the details, I suggest you check out a previous post - All About the Caffeine. Essentially, most of the experts I've researched suggest that caffeine benefits your workout and to not worry about getting too much caffeine unless you are consuming more than 400mg per day. It is also a good idea to take a break from caffeine now and then if you supplement with it often and to refrain from using it later on in the day so that it does not interrupt your sleep.
Bottom line, I find pre-workout helps me a ton and gives me the burst of energy I need to execute a workout, even if I'm working out at 4:00AM before work. Whether you are running or lifting, caffeine appears to be beneficial for performance and will give you the wake-me-up when you need it.
Step 2: Plan & Write Down Your Workout
The main reason logging your workout is so critical is so you can track your progress. It obviously helps you when you are working out so that your time between sets is consistent and you accomplish the amount of work you planned on going into the workout. Both Mike Matthews and Greg Nuckols strongly recommend doing this and, as coaches, say it increases results and adherence to a program.
Setting up your logbook for should only take a few minutes. Below, I will share an example of what my logbook looks like when I am preparing for a workout (laying out the exercises I plan on doing, number of sets, and the weight I plan to start with for each). Personally, I find writing things down on paper to be better than using any app on my phone. I'm just partial to pen and paper rather than using my phone.
Step 3: Warm Up
Forget what you think of first when you hear the term "warm up." Rather than static stretching, consider warming up with movements closely related with the major movements you plan on using in your workout, if not the same movement. The warm up I currently use is directly taken by Mike Matthews' Bigger Leaner Stronger. When my major lift for the day is a bench press, I also warm up with the bench press, just with lower weights. Mike suggests doing 3 warm up sets: 2 sets of 10 reps at 50% the weight you plan on lifting and 1 set of 3-4 reps at 70% the weight you plan on lifting.Keep in mind that the "weight you plan on lifting" is in the 4-6 rep range with 1-2 reps left in the tank, per BLS. In the image below, you can see a clear example of this.
Greg Nuckols, world record-breaking powerlifter and weightlifting coach, suggests using a similar method of slowly working your way up to the %one-rep-max you plan on lifting that day for major lifts. Ben Greenfield, Mike Matthews, and Greg Nuckols do not suggest static stretching when it comes to a warm up and have even written about a number of scientific articles that have tested if stretching helps performance or injury prevention and have reflected that stretching is either negative or neither helpful or hurtful for both categories when done before a workout. The same experts, with Kelly Starrett included as well, suggest that stretching after a workout or before going to bed can be beneficial for doing your own physical therapy and/or improving your movement capabilities. So, if you plan to stretch, it may be better to save it for later.
In the end, whatever keeps you going to the gym and executing the work is what matters. Step 2, I believe is the most crucial step, but all 3 of these steps help me personally, and maybe they can help you too. None of these things are taught in gym class, possibly because weight training is not focused on much at all. Most of this applies if you are a runner as well - I would still take pre-workout (maybe a little less, though), log the work I'm doing, and use movements like squats and butt-kicks rather than swinging my arms around before going for a run.
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Keep Calm and Strive On
In these crazy times, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I've been a little stressed out. Between the fear of getting sick and being told to stay home while looting and rioting is happening all over the United States, it is tough to not be sucked into what is going on and stressed out by it. People have a right to be outraged but, personally, I feel the best thing I can do is focus on everything else I have going on. It's important to understand what is going on but there is no use in watching videos and reading articles that are solely generated for click-bait and to get your stress levels up.
I understand that this post is different than my other posts, but I feel it is important to share ways for you to de-stress and stay motivated to work on improving yourself. From studying successful entrepreneurs like those in the health and fitness space, a tool they seem to all have is to not get distracted and keep working hard on what they believe in. Almost all of them have gone through difficult times in their lives, where they had nearly nothing, and they just kept pushing towards their goals and still have not stopped.
Some great resources for staying motivated to reach your goals are:
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation by Mike Matthews
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
and I will be referencing them throughout this post.
You Are What You Habitually Do
To quote Tyler Durden from the fantastic movie, Fight Club - "You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents in your wallet." I believe people being forced to stay home has brought to light what is most important; I know it has for me. We should be showing the ones we love how much we care and spending time with them as much as possible. Life is meant to enjoy and be others, not to be stressed out and alone.
As Ryan Holiday says in The Daily Stoic, "The person you'd like to be, or the person you see yourself as - how closely do your actions actually correspond to him or her (p.147)?" Start thinking of goals you have in all areas of life and what habits you can start applying to get there.
Quit Complaining and Making Excuses
As Mike Matthews says in The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation, "There's probably very little we're actually incapable of; there's only our sense of urgency and willingness to act (p. 146)."
Most things are not as complex as people make them out to be. If your goal is to change your body composition, dieting and exercising work; it's just finding programs that you will adhere to. If your goal is to improve the relationships you have with your loved ones, pick up the phone and randomly call them more or go out of your way to visit them more. If your goal is start your own business, do your research, make a plan, and get the ball rolling.
Rather than getting sucked into social media or video games, use the time you have wisely and invest it in yourself. There is always room for improvement.
Rather than focusing on all the negativity, use that time to teach yourself something. If you want to educate yourself on topics related to what is going on today, study people like Martin Luther King or Frederick Douglass or study times of large protests or economic downfalls. If you want to focus on something else, find something your passionate in - pick up an old hobby or find a new one! Pick up a new instrument, start journaling, or find a topic you want to learn more about. We have more resources than ever at our fingertips - whether you prefer movies, articles, books, or podcasts you'll find something to peak your interest.
Make an Effort to Be Kind
It always helps to be kind to others, especially with everything going on nowadays. Make someone laugh or smile and let them forget about the stress in their lives for a minute. This is also something that successful people I have studied practice - selflessness. Make an effort to help out others when they ask or donate money to just causes if you can. Think of all the little things you take for granted and what little things you can do for those who do not have those things.
Many small business, those looted or shut down due to COVID-19 are hurting bad so, anything you can do to support local businesses is an especially kind gesture at this time. Keep your gym memberships even if you are not going and donate to these causes if you can. Also, reach out to friends who are stuck and living alone regularly.
I hope that this post sparks some ideas in how you can use this time wisely rather than stressing yourself out. We will persevere and get through this. In the meantime, work on yourself by setting goals or setting standards for yourself.
Another powerful quote from Ryan Holiday in The Daily Stoic is, "The work of living is to set standards and then not compromise them... Not, I want to do good - that's an excuse. But, I will do good in this particular instance, right now. Set a standard; hold fast to it. That's all there is (p. 302)." Something I plan on doing in the near future is establishing the standards I live by. I know a few off-hand but have never listed these as a practice. I hear a good resource for finding good life and business standards to live by is a book written in 2017, Principles by Ray Dalio.
To wrap up, I want to share my favorite quote from The Daily Stoic...
"Time is our most irreplaceable asset - we cannot buy more of it. We can only strive to waste as little as possible (p. 365)."
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please share it on and subscribe to be notified of new posts on my Contact page.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.