Warming up is consistently one of the most ignored and underappreciated portions of an athlete’s workout. When a warm up is not performed, sometimes an athlete will not be hitting their true potential until halfway through their workout. The biggest reason why people don’t warm up is because they don’t see the value in it. We hope to counter that notion and offer solutions for your warm ups below.
Why Do We Warm Up?
Warming up often gives an athlete the feeling of being “looser”. This is because increasing the body’s temperature helps improve muscle elasticity and flexibility. When the body temperature increases synovial (joint) fluids also warm up, helping to lubricate the joints during exercise. As body temperature increases, more blood circulates delivering oxygen and substrates to working muscles and removing waste products.
The aerobic system takes a while to switch on. For example, the first 5 minutes of a distance run often have you breathing harder than minutes 6-10. This is because your body is going from a fairly low level of exertion to a working level. The body takes time to adjust to this increase and will eventually reach a steady state (Aerobic) breathing and circulatory pattern. A proper warm up before an aerobic session will allow you to perform consistently throughout the session.
The body is intuitive and has a “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to it’s muscles. If you train your biceps, your biceps will become bigger, stronger, etc… There are lots of smaller muscles in the body that help the body move. They are not required to move, but they assist in preventing injury. For example: the gluteus medius is a muscle that helps to prevent the knee from collapsing in while running. You can run without it helping, but it will often lead to injury. As mentioned above the body is intuitive. If you perform warm up exercises for these smaller muscles they “switch on” and begin doing their job. This is why warming up your rotator cuff with external rotation, internal rotation, abduction and adduction will help stabilize the shoulder during bench press.
When an athlete is training towards a goal they will be either increasing intensity, volume or both to acheive a training adaptation. This means that their body will get tired, sore and achey from time to time. One way to increase local circulation and flexibility is to foam roll and perform other mobility exercises. These can take the form of a dynamic stretch, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretch, myofascial release or any other number of mobility techniques. If consistently applied, these small improvements in mobility can lead to huge gains in function.
Progressions of Warm Ups
This is the “get the body moving” portion of the warm up. When you first get into the gym and get your body from baseline up to a level at which it is ready to perform. For many this may be sitting down on a bike and biking for 10 minutes, slowly building intensity until their heart rate is above 140 beats per minute. This is also a great part of the warm up to add foam rolling and any mobility work ons you have.
This portion of the warm up is where you begin to move your joints through the range of motions that you will be working during the workout. This may take the form of arm circles, single leg RDLs, downward dog, etc… This is also a great part of the workout to add in activation exercises. Here’s an example of some dynamic range of motion work:
This will be the final portion of your warm up and will consist of exercises that are closely related to, or exactly what you are going to be doing that day. We will get into examples of this below but if your workout is going to be focused around barbell work then you can get a barbell in your hands and begin performing variations of the movements you will be training that day. If you are performing a clean and jerk in training then good specific warm up exercises to do are: BB RDL, BB Front Squat, BB Hang Squat Clean, BB Thruster, BB Push Press, BB Strict Press, BB Behind the Neck Press, etc… Anything that will better prepare you for the movements you will be completing that day.
Examples of Full Warm Ups for Training Sessions
Heavy Deadlift Day
10min Row building up to a 1:45 pace 10min Foam Roll + Mobility (maintain tenacity in the hamstrings, however)
3 Rounds: Walking Hamstring Reaches x 10 per side Leg Swings x 15 per side Deep Squat Stretch with Extension x 10 Backwards Bear Crawl x 30m Band Pull Through x 10 Band Monster Walks x 20m Forwards + 20m Backwards Band Pull Aparts x 12
2 Rounds @ 95#: BB Good Morning @ 3010 x 10 BB RDL @ 3010 x 10 Bent over Pronated BB Row @ 2020 x 10 + Build up to working weight of BB Deadlifts
3 Rounds of 10min Mixed MAP
@ low –> moderate effort: 1min Jog, 1min Row, 1min Bike, 1min Skip, 1min AD x 2 10min Foam Roll + Mobility (work on your goats)
3 Rounds: 8 Wide Pushups + 8 Pushups + 8 Close Grip Pushups 5 Supinated Pullups 30sec Bear Crawl Hold 20m A-Skip 20m Side Shuffle per side 10 Half Kneeling Band Face Pull + 10 Half Kneeling Band Pull Apart 10 Band Clamshells per side @ 2020
This will be tailored to the movements you are doing in the workout. Shortened rounds of each until one of them feels light and fast. Then rest a bit, and hit your workout.
10min of Cyclical Aerobic work on modality you will be training on (Bike, Rower, AD, etc…) Any mobility needed
This will differ on what modality you use. For bike, perform dynamic stretching and activation exercises for lower body. For rower/AD perform dynamic stretches for full body.
On the modality you are using perform 3min of cyclical warm up with small sprints throughout. For example on rower: 30sec Row @ 70% + 3 POWERFUL strokes + 20sec Row @ 70% ….
Remember, you will have to learn what works for you under different conditions and with different modalities and intensities over time. Sometimes your body will need more time to warm up, sometimes it will need much less. Warming up is a considerable amount of workload as well so don’t discount this in your overall training volume. Lastly, a good rule of thumb is: the shorter the event the longer the warmup, the longer the event the shorter the warmup.