How To Properly Warm Up

Warming up is the most overlooked aspect of a workout. Most people don’t know what a good warm up should look like.

For the average gym member who does warm up, it usually consists of walking/running on the treadmill for 5 minutes followed by some static stretching. In reality, it should be and is so much more than this.

A good warm up will:

  1. Increase core temperature: This serves to improve the elasticity of muscles, which helps improve flexibility.
  2. Increase blood flow to muscles: This allows more oxygen and nutrients pass through to working muscle tissue thus allowing you to work harder.
  3. Mobilize your joints: This allows for improved range of motion at joints like the hip and shoulder.
  4. Prime the abs and glutes: The abs and glutes are two of the main muscle groups that lack strength and endurance in the majority of people. Prepping them in the warm up will serve to improve strength and movement in the workout.
  5. Lock in movement patterns for the upcoming workout: The warmup is a time where you can practice movement patterns like squatting and hip hinging. This will help make the movements smooth and efficient during the workout.

As you can see, the warm up does so many more things than just get your heart rate up. A solid warm up will not only improve your performance but can also decrease risk of injury.

One of the reasons warm ups are done so haphazardly or not at all is because we do not want to take the time to do it correctly. We want to get in, get our workout done, and get out. But a good warm up shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes and your body will thank you for it.

In order to do a proper warm up, it needs to be dynamic in nature. Static stretching, which is common in many warm ups, has been shown to decrease muscle strength (1). We need to be moving since we will be moving during the workout.

The order in which you perform your exercises is also very important. You should begin on the floor and work your way up to a standing/moving position. This creates a good flow so you do not need to constantly get up and down off the floor.

Floor based exercises are generally easier, so its best to start there. As you work your way up to a standing position, the exercises will get more challenging in nature.

Now that you know why warming up is important, let’s look at what a good warm up consists of and the time that should be allotted to each category:

  • Foam rolling: Used to reduce tightness, soreness, and knots in your muscles (2-3 min)
  • Breathing: Used to reduce muscle stiffness and restore neutral posture (30-45 sec)
  • Ab/Glute activation exercises: Used to prime the abs and glutes (2 min)
  • Mobility exercises: Used to improve joint range of motion (4-5 min)
  • Movement preparation: Used to increase heart rate, improve blood flow, and practice movement patterns (3-4 min)

Here’s a sample warm up for you. You can use this anytime you go to the gym or use it as a template so you can design one yourself.


Foam Roll: Pecs, Quads, Adductors (20-30 seconds per side)

Rock Back On Elbows w/Breathing x 10 breaths

Core Engaged Deadbug x 8 reps/side

Glute Bridge x 10 reps

Quadruped Reach Back x 8 reps/side

Groiner w/Overhead Reach x 6 reps/side

Rocking Hip Flexor Stretch x 10 reps/side

Push Up x 10 reps

Prisoner Squat x 10 reps

Hip Hinge x 10 reps


This warm up can be done in about 10-12 minutes and covers our major bases. It activates the abs and glutes, mobilizes the hips and shoulders, and prepares us for the workout. Here’s how to do each one:

– Foam rolling: Pecs, Adductors, Quads

  • Using a lacrosse ball and foam roller, put pressure into each area and roll for the allotted time.
how to properly warm up

Using a lacrosse ball on the pecs

how to properly warm up

Using a foam roller on the adductors

Using a foam roller on the quads

Using a foam roller on the quads

– Breathing: Rock Back on Elbows w/Breathing

  • Begin in a quadruped position and rock back to your heels. Place a bar pad or mat in between your thighs and abdomen. Take 10 deep breaths while pushing your elbows into the ground. You should feel your abdomen expanding into the pad as you inhale and your abs contract when you exhale.
how to properly warm up

Rock back on elbows w/breathing

– Ab/Glute Activation: Core Engaged Deadbug, Glute Bridge

  • Deadbug: Place a band around an immovable object. Lie down on your back and pull the band down to your knees. Keeping the low back on the floor, drop one heel down at a time and tap the floor. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Core engaged deadbug

Core engaged deadbug start/end

how to properly warm up

Core engaged deadbug middle

  • Glute Bridge: Lie on your back with the feet flat on the floor. Push through your heels and press your hips to the ceiling. Repeat for the allotted number of reps.
Glute Bridge start

Glute Bridge start/end

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.55.08

Glute Bridge middle

– Mobility Exercises: Quadruped Reach Back, Groiner w/Overhead Reach, Rocking Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Quadruped Reach Back: Start in a quadruped position and rock back to your heels. Place one hand on the back of your head. Reach the elbow up and back as far as you can. Bring the elbow back down and repeat.
how to properly warm up

Quadruped reach back start/end

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.59.07

Quadruped reach back middle

  • Groiner w/Overhead Reach: Start in a quadruped position. Bring one foot out to the side of the same hand. Rock your hips forward and reach with the same sided hand up and back as far as you can. Bring the hand back down and place the foot back to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Groiner w/overhead reach start

Groiner w/overhead reach start/end

Screenshot 2015-08-31 12.01.53

Groiner w/overhead reach middle

  • Rocking Hip Flexor Stretch: Set up with one knee down on a pad or mat and the other leg out in front. Squeeze the glute of the leg that’s down as hard as you can. You should feel a stretch on the front side of that same hip. Holding that contraction, gently rock forward. You should feel the stretch even more. Rock back to the start and repeat.
Rocking hip flexor start

Rocking hip flexor stretch start/end

CameraAwesomePhoto (1)

Rocking hip flexor stretch middle

– Movement Preparation: Push Up, Prisoner Squat, Hip Hinge

  • Push Up: Set up in a push up position. Begin by lowering your chest to the floor. The elbows should be about 45° from the body at the bottom. Push away hard from the floor and return back to the start position.
Screenshot 2015-03-12 11.06.01

Push up start/end

Push up middle

Push up middle

  • Prisoner Squat: Set up with your feet slightly outside shoulder width and turned out about 20-30°. Place the hands on the back of the head and pull the elbows back. Begin by pushing the hips back and sitting down between the legs. Stop once your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push through the heels and return back to the start.
Prisoner squat start

Prisoner squat start/end

Screenshot 2015-08-31 12.05.40

Prisoner squat middle

  • Hip Hinge: Begin by pushing your back pockets on your shorts directly back to the wall behind you. Allow your trunk to fold over at the waist as you push your pockets back. This serves to counterbalance your weight shift. Keep a slight bend in the knee the entire time. You should feel a stretch in the back of your thighs. Push your hips forward and return back to the starting position.
Hip Hinge start/end

Hip hinge start/end

Screenshot 2015-08-31 12.06.54

Hip hinge middle

*****

This is a simple, short, and effective warm up you can do before any training session. The warm up is just as important as the actual training session. Do not put it aside.

It takes a short amount of time and the benefits you receive are tremendous. Your body will not only feel better, but you’ll notice your gym performance will better too. Use this article as your guide on how to properly warm up.

References:

  1. Oliveira, M. et al. The rate of force development obtained at early contraction phase is not influenced by active static stretching. J Strength Cond Res. August 2012. 26(8). 2174-2179.

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