How to Warm Up for Squats

How to Warm Up for Squats

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Squats are one of the big powerlifting workouts and should be at the foundation of any serious workout regime.

It’s important to squat with great form, which I wrote about earlier.

Check out that article here!

But it’s also important to warm-up properly before you squat.


Don’t load up a bar with multiple plates and start squattin’ right after you get to the gym!

Why Warm Up for Squats?

Warming up for squats helps you in two ways:

  1. You’ll be able to squat more effectively
  2. You’ll have a lower chance of injuryWhy how to warm up before squats tips dynamic stretches foam rolling empty bar

Warming up increases your muscle’s core temperature, gets more blood flowing to the muscles, and improves your range of motion.

Effective squats involve a wide range of motion (they’re better for you when you go butt to grass[1]) so you want to activate your muscles before you begin!

Those warmed-up calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings will be able to put in their full effort, which will let you push through all your reps without failure.

There’s another benefit, too.

Warming up gets your mind in the mood for squats!

Many people find it beneficial to psyche themselves up before lifting that heavy weight.

Focus is one of the most important aspects of fitness, so you may want to try a preworkout supplement if you have trouble getting focused even with a warm-up routine.

How to Warm Up for Squats

Every powerlifter has a different warm-up routine before they put that heavy bar on their back.

But what’s important is that they have such a routine.

The following are four methods you can use to warm up before your squat workout.

You don’t HAVE to use all four methods but I’d recommend doing at least #4.

#1 – Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a safe and effective way to increase your muscle’s range of motion.

Also called self-myofascial release, foam rolling is a form of therapy you perform yourself.

All you need is a foam roller and the ground (though a mat may be more comfortable).

Put the foam roller on the ground, put your muscle perpendicularly on the roller, and apply pressure into the roller as you roll back and forth.

For squats, you want to hit these muscles with the foam roller:

  • Calves
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Spinal Erectors

It’s also a good idea to use a firm ball to massage your hip flexors.

#2 – Jog and/or Jump Rope

A bit of cardio exercise will get the blood pumping to your muscles without wearing out your energy reserves.

I favor skipping with a jump rope.

Jogging, whether outside or on a treadmill, works well too.

Remember, all you want to do with this cardio is to get your heart rate up. You don’t want to wear yourself out.

So, no HIIT! (That can come later!)

Jump rope for 30 seconds to one minute, or jog for two minutes to five minutes.

#3 – Dynamic Stretches

Static stretches before a heavy workout are not recommended.

In fact, they can even reduce your performance[2]!

Dynamic stretches, however, can be helpful[3].

Movements that emulate heavy squats without involving a weighted bar will get your body ready for the movement without stressing yourself out.

Bodyweight Squats

The most obvious dynamic movement you can use to warm up before squats is squatting without the bar!

Bodyweight squats, also called air squats, are the same movement as bar squats.

Just, without the bar.

My warm-up bodyweight squats involve dropping extra slow and sitting at the bottom for ten seconds or longer before standing back up.

I do this at least six times.

Duck Walk

This is a funny-looking exercise that’s effective at getting your muscles used to moving at the bottom of the squat’s range of motion.

A duck walk is a squat movement where you walk around while squatted down instead of standing back up.

It’s awkward and people unfamiliar with the move may find you humorous, but it’ll warm you up!

Just quack at anybody who laughs at you.

You don’t have to walk around for half an hour. About thirty steps total should be good.

Hip Circles

Get your hips swingin’ in a circle!

This will increase your hip joint mobility so you don’t strain yourself when squatting.

Leg Swings

Standing on one leg while swinging the other forward, backward, inward, and outward will also increase your hip mobility.

#4 – Start with an Empty Bar

The most important squat warm-up exercise is to squat with minimal, but not no, weight.

Grab that bar, put it in position, and squat!

Some people recommend two sets of five reps each.

I prefer doing a set of three reps, a set of six reps, then maybe a set of nine reps if I feel I need it.

Other Warmup Exercises

The above are some of my favorite warmup exercises but they’re not the only ones.

Other lifters like different exercises, and that’s okay.

What’s important is that you find a warmup routine that works for you.

Here are some more exercises to consider:

You can use these exercises to do more than warm up for squats! Use them to warm up for lunges, too!

Putting it All Together

The most important aspect of warming up before squatting is to warm up.

It doesn’t matter exactly what you do so long as your heart rate is above resting and your muscles are warm and have blood flow.

At the very least, start with the bar and work up in weight before doing your working sets.

Foam rolling is often recommended, too!

Feel free to mix and match the cardio and dynamic exercises to figure out what works best for you.

But be careful about warming up too much.

Warm-up should take minutes, not a good chunk of your gym visit.

Make sure to get some actual squatting in!