What’s a Gear Up and why you need in *every* workout.

A foundation of any strong structure is a strong base. The same is true of our bodies. Bulletproof feet, ankles, calves, and knees are key preventing injuries and having an active pain-free life. That’s why we start every session with our signature “Gear Up” routine – a carefully designed series of exercises that not do more than properly prepare your body for the more intense movements that follow in the workout and beyond. Each movement is chosen to address common issues for the modern sedentary lifestyle. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons why we prioritize “Gear Up” over traditional warm-ups and explore the different components of this dynamic routine.

But First, a Word about Our Shoes

Pointy, squishy running shoes, and large platform shoes can be detrimental to our foot health. Pointy shoes can squeeze the toes together, leading to bunions and other deformities. Squishy shoes buffer our connection with the ground and weaken arches, causing the arches to collapse. Weak arches increase the need for expensive orthotics. It’s a painful cycle of weakness and more costly assistive devices. But good news! strengthening feet through exercises and wearing “zero-drop” shoes can help reduce or eliminate dependency on such devices. Imagine a life with no more orthotics and freedom to wear sandals (ahhh!).  So, to get the most out of a Gear Up, do it in your socks or a pair of minimal shoes. Read on to learn about the Gear Up.

What’s the difference between a Gear Up and a Warm Up?

While warm-ups are essential for increasing blood flow and body temperature, they often focus solely on raising the heart rate without targeting specific muscle groups. On the other hand, the “Gear Up” routine at Progressive Athletics aims to achieve a more comprehensive approach to priming your body for exercise and bullet-proofing the body against injuries. By incorporating various exercises that target different areas, we enhance joint mobility, muscle activation, and stability – elements crucial for maximizing performance and preventing injuries. To get the most benefit, do these movements in your socks or a pair of minimal shoes. Okay, now time for the Gear Up.

What’s in a Gear Up?

Part 1. Base Build

The foundation of any strong structure is a solid base, and the same holds true for our bodies. The “Base Build” phase of our Gear Up routine focuses on strengthening toes, ankles, calves and knees. We came up with this because we witness gym members coming in with pain and injuries such as plantar fasciitis, flat feet (weak arches), bunions, stiff ankles, Achilles tears, shin splints, and of course, knee pain. Exercises like tibialis raises, calf raises, and Patrick steps address this issues because they directly strengthen the arch of the foot, mobilize the ankle, stabilize the knee, build strength in the calf muscles, providing a stable platform for the rest of the body to move and lift. It works best to do these movements with no shoes or minimal shoes.  Here’s a closer look at three of our favorite movements:

  • Tibialis raise: Lean against a wall on your heels and raise, then lower your toes for 1 minute.
  • Calf raise: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your heels off the ground as high as you can and lower for 1 minutes 
  • Patrick step: Stand on one leg and step forward with the other leg. Lower your leg until your heel touches the ground in front of you. Repeat for 1 minute. 


  • It helps to get warm before doing these exercises. (we always start with a 5 minute walk)
  • Take breaks as you need or if it’s too easy, progress it to make it more intense.
  • If you have any pain, stop the exercise and consult a doctor.

This may feel a bit tedious when you’re excited to begin your workout, but don’t neglect your foundation. Now let’s move a few inches up the body to Instagram favorite part of every workout.

Part 2. Hip and Glute Activation

Hips and glutes get lots of attention in the media, but truth is, they are really important to our function. And in today’s sedentary lifestyle, many of us suffer from weak and tight hips and glutes. This can lead to imbalances and potential injuries during workouts and can lead to the need for surgery. In fact, hip replacements are on the rise! But good news, the solution is simple. Strengthen them and take them through a full range of motion as often as possible each week.  This is why we include Part 2 of our Gear Up: “Hip and Glute Activation” We like hip hurdles, squats with a hip circle, and side steps with a hip circle because they mobilize and strengthen these crucial muscle groups and joints. Improved hip and glute function enhances overall movement efficiency and reduces the risk of strain and injury.

Here’s three of our favorite hip/glute activation movements:

  1. Hip Hurdles:
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart next to a raised box.
  • Step forward over the box while keeping your back straight and core engaged.
  • Step back to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for 30 seconds on each leg.
  1. Squat with Hip Circle:
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a hip circle around your thighs just above your knees.
  • Squat down, making sure to keep your back straight and core engaged.
  • As you come back up, focus on squeezing your glutes.
  • Repeat this exercise for 1 minute.
  1. Side Step with Hip Circle:
  • Stand with your feet together and a hip circle around your thighs just above your knees.
  • Take a step to the side while keeping your back straight and core engaged.
  • Bring your other foot to meet the first foot.
  • Repeat this side-stepping movement for 1 minute, alternating directions.

Do these hip and glute activation movements into your routine 2-3 times per week. If you have a trainer, ask them to include this in each of your workouts. Remember, strong hips and glutes provide essential support and stability to your body during everyday movements and exercise.  Read on to learn about a frequently forgotten element in workouts.

Part 3. Wake Up Those Hammies!

Often overlooked, the hamstring is a vital muscle for maintaining healthy knees and hips. Our “Hamstring Activation” exercises, such as standing leg curls, bowler squats, and reverse plank heel taps, specifically target this muscle group, ensuring it is ready to handle the demands of your workout. Strong hamstring will help bulletproof your knees, a pain-free back, and make walking and jogging much more enjoyable. It is common to experience cramps when first activating these muscles. If this happens, stop and shake it out then try again. With time and practice, it won’t happen as often. Keep reading to learn about the classic problem we all have (except maybe ballerinas).

Part 4. Posture

Our modern lifestyle wreaks havoc on our posture. Poor posture not only leads to discomfort and pain, it can easily lead to the need for painful surgery (cha-ching $$$). To counteract this, every Gear Up routine includes exercises that strengthen the shoulders and upper back. This resistance band series includes Underhand Pull Aparts, No Money Pull Aparts, and Behind the Neck (overhead) pull apart. We like them because they promote better posture but can be done by almost anyone and anywhere.  We recommend doing this daily throughout the day, especially if you work in a job where you are leaning forward and/or sitting.

Here’s three elemental healing movements for your shoulders and upper-back:

1️⃣ Underhand Pull Apart: This exercise focuses on enhancing shoulder blade mobility. It helps to loosen up those tight muscles and improve your upper back’s range of motion. Proper shoulder blade mobility is crucial for maintaining a healthy posture and reducing the risk of shoulder pain.

2️⃣ No Money Pull Apart: Strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades is key to combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting and poor posture. This exercise targets those muscles, which play a vital role in keeping your shoulders aligned and your upper back stable.

3️⃣ Behind the Neck Pull Apart: The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. This exercise helps increase the mobility of your rotator cuff, which can greatly contribute to improved posture and reduced discomfort in the shoulders and upper back.

🏠 You can incorporate these exercises into your routine by doing them 2-3 times per week at home.

Remember, good posture is not just about standing up straight; it’s about feeling your best and moving with ease throughout your daily activities. Embrace the journey to a healthier, more mobile, and pain-free life by prioritizing your posture today.  The next part of the Gear Up is popular among beach-goers.

Part 5. Core/Crawl

The “Core” refers to a complex network of muscles in the torso.  Contrary to popular belief, the core encompasses more than just the “6-pack” abs; it includes a complex network of muscles that play a significant role in stabilizing the torso and supporting the spine and hips. It is the center of your power and stability! This segment focuses on strengthening these core muscles, which are vital for functional movement, spinal health, and overall balance.

A good start is stationary planks, but it’s important to progress to movements that require you to stabilize your core while doing full body movements. Let’s explore some of the exercises:

**1. Rolling Planks:**
– Start in a side plank position, resting on your forearm with your body forming a straight line from head to heels.
– Engage your core and hold this position for 20 seconds before transitioning to a standard plank position, supporting your body with both forearms and toes.
– Again, hold for 20 seconds, and then smoothly transition to the other side plank position, maintaining proper form throughout the movement.
– Repeat this sequence for several sets, allowing yourself to adapt to the challenge and intensity over time.

**2. Bear-Dog:**
– Begin on all fours, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees aligned with your hips.
– Engage your core and hover your knees just above the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your hips.
– Now, raise your hips towards the ceiling, transitioning into a downward dog yoga pose. This movement will engage your core and challenge your balance.
– Return to the initial bear crawl position and repeat the bear-dog movement for several reps, focusing on controlled and deliberate motions.

**3. Scapula Push-ups:**
– Assume a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your body forming a straight line from head to heels.
– Instead of bending your elbows to perform a traditional push-up, focus on locking your elbows and sliding your shoulder blades toward each other, letting your chest lower a bit.
– Return to the starting position and repeat the scapula push-ups for several reps, feeling the burn in your upper back and core muscles.

Although its popular to do “Max planks” beyond 2 minutes, its better to listen to your body and learn quality movement. When we “go to failure” we begin to compensate with other muscles – and not in a good way. So start with a few sets of each exercise and gradually increase the number of sets and reps as you build strength and confidence. Remember to listen to your body and take breaks when needed to prevent overexertion. Okay, read on. The last part of the Gear Up may surprise you.

Part 6. The Mighty Campfire Squat

There’s nothing like a proper deep campfire squat! It will keep you young and mobile! They look a little different for each person due to anatomy and mobility, but it’s important to do at least one per day. That is why every Gear Up ends with a 30-second Campfire Squat. Here’s a few reasons why…

  • Improves flexibility
  • Strengthens the muscles in the legs, hips, and core
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Helps to relieve back pain
  • Promotes better posture
  • Can help to improve digestion
  • Can help to reduce stress
  • Preserves range of motion in ankles, Achilles tendons, calves, hips, groin, and knees.

A Few Parting Thoughts

As the modern lifestyle involves more time in front of technology and less movement, it becomes ever-more urgent to include movements in your workout that challenge range of motion involve more than just “warming up.”  A workout that heals and builds the body needs more than just increasing your heart rate. It needs thoughtful planning to counteract the positions we must assume to do our desk jobs.

The “Gear Up” routine is a holistic approach to prime your muscles, joints, and core, minimizing the risk of injuries and prepare you for a great pain-free workout enhance your life outside the gym. By targeting different areas and muscle groups, you will build a solid foundation for a successful and rewarding fitness journey. So, before your next workout, make sure to “Gear Up” and experience the difference firsthand. Like and follow us to unlock your true potential with Progressive Athletics!