Yes, warming up can seem like an annoyance at times. Especially when you’re in a hurry and just want to get into it.

But skipping the warm up, or worse, doing it like a sloth means leaving some of the potential results hanging uncollected on the hooks of missed opportunities.

The purpose of a warm up

Get more out of the workout

Cold muscles don’t contract as well as warm ones do. By warming up you increase the blood flow into the muscles making them, and I risk sounding like a car mechanic working on an adult movie set, lubricated and ready to contract.

More oxygen in the muscles allows them to contract and relax quicker. You’ll perform better and milk more benefits from your workout.

Possibly lower the risk of injuries

Although science isn’t conclusive on this, it would make sense that injuries are more likely to happen with cold muscles. Purely based on the slowness of contraction and relaxation when compared with warm muscles.

Let’s focus on the fact that training injuries happen when the force applied exceeds the tissue tolerance. It would make sense then that as warm muscles contract better, they are more likely to counteract the force demands.

Excite the nervous system

Warming up the muscles and joints is one thing. “Warming up” the nervous system is another. Again leading to a better muscle contraction.

Get in the right headspace

This is the brain content of a typical adult on any given day:

“I am soooooooo over Simon sitting next to me at work. What’s his deal anyway?!? Does he really need that much cologne? Smells like he got it from the discount bucket in Target.”
“Did little Timmy remember to take his lunch box to school? Gosh, I hope he eats his peeled apple slices.”
“We really need to find a solution to get our company through this merger. Maybe I should call Melinda…”
“What should I make for dinner?”
“How good are these pants!”
“I wonder if my wife wants more woolly socks for her birthday?”
“Ok, what was I doing again…?”

Ideally a thorough warm up will allow you to bring your focus to this:

“Fuck Simon. Time to train.”

How to warm up

The purpose is to start easy and gradually ramp up so you’re ready to get after it when it counts. I like to think of the warm up as a gradual progress of reducing ground contact. Start on the ground, progress to standing and finish with locomotion before adding power and speed.

It could be as simple as this:

  1. 9090 breathing
  2. Kneeling heel rock
  3. Snoop Dog steps into rotation
  4. Squat to stand
  5. Lateral squat
  6. Single leg hip swing
  7. Carry variation

This could also be much longer. A warm up for someone in their 60s might take 25 minutes and include a variety of movement work. For someone deconditioned returning to fitness the whole workout might look like a warm up.

Then comes the power and core work.

I really see this part of the program still part of the ramping up. We are now taking movements and making them more explosive. One for the upper body, one for the lower body, plus a core exercise thrown in the mix.

8. Kettlebell swing
9. Wall power push up
10. Side plank to rotation

Again, adjust these to what’s right for you and your setting. Med ball slams and throws are brilliant choices when training in a gym. Not so much when training on the third floor of an apartment block at 4am.

Technically your first one or two sets of each exercise in the strength training session are still part of the warm up.

You’re practising the movements of the training. Start with a lighter weight and build up to a one or two work sets where you really push it.

You can’t really tell where the warm up finished and the training started

The whole warm up should feel like you seamlessly transition from warm up to training. In terms of gradually ramping up from awful to awesome, think transitioning from Britney to Batman.