Dan John Warm Ups


I wrote this article for my old blog over four years ago. The “Dan John” warm up idea has come up in a couple conversations I’ve had over the past fews weeks so I thought it would be worth updating and reposting.

There is no difference between the warm up and the workout for Dan. It’s all “working out”. It’s all MOVEMENT. It’s all STRESS! The idea is to get in all of your movements and correctives at the beginning of your workout, then select a few exercises to go after hard and heavy. This is a great way to change it up if your warm ups, or workouts, have become old and stagnant OR you’re looking to build up GPP (General Physcial Preparedness) with a new client or young athlete before you move to more SPP (Specific Physical Preparedness). But remember… “Everything works for about 6 weeks!” then re-evaluate.

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Everything I read by Dan John makes me a better coach. Dan’s book “Never Let Go” (Since I wrote this article he’s produced three more great works all worth your time and money… Intervention, Easy Strength, and Fat Loss Happens on Monday) was a phenomenal read and I recommend it to anyone who lift weights, has personal training clients, coaches athletes, wants to perform better, or breathes air for that matter. It was his philosophy on “warming up” that had light bulbs going off in my head and the next day at work I decided to give his approach a shot.

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Below are the excerpts from Dan’s book on “Warming Up” that got my gears turning….

“We use the warm-ups to attempt to do every one of the big moves. Currently, I have my athletes do this:

  1. Crush Press Walk/ Horn Walk/ Waiter Walks/ Suitcase walks/ Crosswalk/ Farmer walk/ Seesaw Press Walk
  2. Goblet Squat 2 sets of 8 w/ Hip Flexor Stretch
  3. Bootstrapper Squats
  4. Alligator Push ups
  5. RDL Stretch and Deck Squats
  6. Hurdle Step Overs
  7. Pull ups 3 sets of 8
  8. Ab Wall Throws 1 set of 25
  9. Half turkish Get up 1 set of 25 ea. side
  10. Ab roller & Windmills
  11. Goblet Squats with pause at the bottom
  12. Swings

Don’t worry about specific exercises or names here. The general idea is to do every move, lightly, in the warm-ups. Lightly is of course a relative term. I have junior football players using 110 pound kettle bells on the goblet squats. Here is the point: I think all nine movements are important, so we do them every day” pg. 334

“The idea here: Keep your specialized training, but continue to keep in contact with the big general movements each workout. It’s an easy way to have each workout become a full body session with an emphasis on a body part. Don’t go crazy on variations; keep pounding away on foundation. From a strength coaches perspective, you’ll get stronger and stronger in these basics, which can’t help but make a difference in your other long-term goals.” pg. 171-172

 “I like to note, “Hey, we’re done with the warm up!” as my athletes fold over and look forward to something fun like max front squats or bench press. What? Yes, the warm up is the workout.” pg. 173

“With most athletes the movements need repeating… far more than most people think. At the elite level of track and field and Olympic Lifting, the total number of full movements is staggering. Many young people are out of touch with movements like squatting because they’ve used chairs their entire lives, and have been kept from deadlifting and rotating by the Safety Lifting Police.” pg. 335

Dan has a very different take on “warming up” than most and just reading that warm up above makes me tired. But you know what? He’s right again as always.

I get to see most of my personal training clients and athletes for one hour, two times per week, and at most three times. We’d of course all like it to be more than that but it’s just the nature of the beast. That means every time a client comes in we have A LOT of “stuff” to do if we want to cover all our bases. These “Dan John” warm ups allow you to do just that, while only focusing on 2 or 3 main heavy lifts for that day. It’s a win-win. You get in all your movements during the warm up, then you get to dial in on a few select exercises for the lift that day (clean, bench, squats, deads, chins, pulls) and master those.

Below are my results with the “Dan John Warm Ups”, how I began implementing them into my programs, and some suggestions that may help if you want to try them out in your own programming.

You Cover Your Basic Movement Patterns Every Workout – Like Dan suggests, construct the warm ups with all your basic movement patterns in mind. Here are the eight movements I thought were most important, you can set it up however you’d like, but I found that eight exercises works best. My experience has been that six is not enough to get the heart rate up in 2 or 3 rounds, but ten is too many to get through it in a timely manner.

  1. Push
  2. Squat/Knee Dom
  3. Pull
  4. Hinge/Hip Dom
  5. Core/Corrective
  6. Plyometric
  7. Locomotion
  8. Carry

As Dan always says “If its important, do it everyday”. So every day we will push, pull, hinge, squat, and do some sort of core exercise, something explosive, run or work on the mechanics of running, and carry something heavy before we get to the lift for the day.

Get The Heart Rate Goin! – It’s a called a “warm up”, not a “cool up”. Try to keep most things light or bodyweight and encourage them to move quickly from exercise to exercise. My average client is warmed up and ready to go after two rounds if they move at a good pace. Slower moving clients may need three rounds to be ready and on the other end of the spectrum your well-conditioned clients can usually handle three rounds.

Form Over Speed – I always preach good form first. (AM”G”RAP) Although you want them moving quickly from exercise to exercise it must never come at the expense of quality. Blasting out 10 fast, but shitty, push-ups is not getting us what we want and it’s almost as painful as watching a Jillian Michael’s DVD……. almost.

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A call for higher standards!!

Corrective & Mobility Work – These warm ups are also a great way to throw in corrective and mobility work as “active rest” between metabolically demanding exercises like jumps, medballs, and ropes. And when your mobility exercises are thrown in between tougher exercises circuit style, they don’t seem as boring, the are actually welcomed.

Great for Off Days – These warm ups are great for deload weeks or days you or your client know you just don’t have it today. Foam roll, stretch, breath, run through one of these warm up a few times, easy bike ride or walk and go home. You keep the body moving, you get your heart rate up, and you let the body recover to prepare for the next workout or training phase. Movement-As-Medicine people!

Lateralizations & Regressions – ALWAYS be sure to have a lateralization or regression in mind if someone cannot do the prescribed exercise. If you need to write it out, do it. The best example, in my warm up below, I have written “Chin Ups X 3 or TRX Rows X 10”.  In a group of 12 people I know probably half of them can do chin ups but the other half cannot. Therefore I write the regression next to it so I don’t have 6 people hanging from a bar and kicking their legs and screaming for 10 minutes trying to complete one chin up. A good coach knows and uses his/her lateralizations, regressions and progressions. Never let someone who is not capable of doing something do it because everyone else is doing it, that’s how injuries happen. Common sense is sometimes not so common.

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Every Exercise is a Screen – In a setting where you deal with large groups it can be damn near impossible to assess everyone. If your warm up addresses every movement pattern, by the end of the workout you should have a pretty good of each individuals baseline. At MBSC & Movement As Medicine our standard is the FMS. At the end of a workout using the “Dan John Warm Up” method I am confident I could get with in one point of someone true FMS score just by watching them move. Is this ideal. NO. Not by a long shot.. but it is realistic. A split squat looks a lot like an In-line Lunge, a leg lower looks a lot like a Active Straight Leg Raise, a Overhead Squat looks a lot like…. an Overhead Squat.

Carry Over – By doing our warm ups like this we significantly increase the amount of exposures someone gets to certain movements. For example we may do 20 band squats in the activation, 3 sets of 10 overhead squats in the warm up, then 4 sets of 10 goblet squats in the lift. This means by the end of the workout they would have accumulated 90 total squats that day. And believe me a good body weight squat make for better looking goblet squat. A good body weight single leg deadlift makes for much better looking weighted single leg deadlift. Solid body weight push ups make all our push up progressions look better. You get the idea.

The “Dan John Warm Ups” I Use – Below are three examples of the “Dan John” Warm Ups I’ve been running my clients and groups through. Every 3rd week I try to change 1 or 2 of the exercises on each list.  The exercises are not done in a specific order as long as all the exercises are done twice or three times. Click on the links to see a video of the exercise performed by yours truly. *Note: we roll, stretch, & breath for 10 – 12 minutes before we go into our DJ warm ups.

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I write the “warm ups” on these nifty “hurdles” that serve even better as whiteboards!

Day #1

  1. Push – Push Ups X 10
  2. Squat/Knee Dom – Goblet Squat Holds Squats X :20 seconds
  3. Pull – TRX Rows X 10
  4. Hinge/Hip Dom – Reaching SLDL X 10 ea. leg
  5. Core/Corrective Bear Crawl Forward & Backward x 10 yds
  6. Plyo – Battling Ropes X 20 seconds
  7. Locomotion Light Sled Sprints (focus on hip seperation) x Turf
  8. Carry –Suitcase Carry (DB or KB) X Turf

Day #2

  1. Push – Inchworms X 10
  2. Squat/Knee Dom – Lateral Squats X 8 ea. side
  3. Pull – DB Row Holds X 20 seconds holds
  4. Hinge/Hip Dom – Single Leg Hip Lifts X 10 ea. side
  5. Core/Corrective “Naked” TGU’s x 2 ea. side
  6. Plyometric – Medball Side Toss X 10 ea. side
  7. Locomotion – Lean Fall Run X Turf 4 times
  8. Carry – Farmer Walk X Turf

Day #3

  1. Push – Wall Slides X 10
  2. Squat/Knee Dom – PVC Overhead Squats X 10
  3. Pull – Chin Up Holds X 3 x 5 seconds or TRX Rows holds X 5 x 5 seconds
  4. Hinge/Hip Dom – KB Hip Hinge X 15 steps ea. way
  5. Core/Corrective – Lateral Crawls x 10 yards down and back
  6. Plyometric – Box Jumps X 6
  7. Locomotion – Ladder X 4 times through pick any 4 drills
  8. Carry – Bottoms Up Waiter’s Carry X Turf

Feel free to steal these warms up or just use them as a template for creating your own. Whatever you decide to do have fun with it and never stop experimenting!