I get a lot of questions from people about warming up. How long? What should they include? Do you need to foam roll? Stretch? Walk on a treadmill?
And while there is no one right answer, I like to follow these Warm Up Guidelines:
- Focus on warming up the specific muscles used. Walking on a treadmill isn’t really a great warm up for an upper body strength day. Foam roll those muscles than do a stretch or two to loosen them up. Use stretches that hit more than one area at a time to make your warm up more time efficient.
- Before a workout all muscles must be warmed up that are going to be used so that you are ready to go when you start your workout. By rolling out and stretching the muscles that are going to be used, you will get more out of your workout because your body is ready to move. You will also prevent injuries from occurring. Focus on the tightest spots. If you find a knot, roll it out. If there is no knot, move on.
- Do dynamic stretches to loosen up all muscles and MOVEMENTS that you are going to use during the workout. If you are going to move laterally, warm up so that your body is ready to move laterally. Spend more time and do more stretches for tight areas and fewer for areas that feel loose.
- Any day you have time, you should focus on areas you know are tight or painful to roll out even if you aren’t necessarily using them . These tight, knotted areas need extra attention as often as you can. If you aren’t using these areas, don’t spend a lot of time on them but do touch on them. The more often you can do proper mobility/flexibility work for them, the quicker they will get better.
- Do activation exercises for the muscles you want to work that day especially if they are traditionally underactive. If you sit at a desk all day, you will most definitely can’t skip mid/lower trap activation exercises as well as glute activation exercises if you are doing a back or butt day. These activation exercises will help you avoid injury and even alleviate minor aches and pains you may already have.
- Especially if you are doing a metabolic day, you want to get your heart rate up a bit and the sweat flowing. You want to feel warm when you start your workout. Getting a little out of breath in the warm up isn’t a bad thing. Even getting a little fatigued in a warm up isn’t a bad thing.
- The more muscles you plan to work and the higher the intensity of your workout, the more you may find you need to warm up. Same goes for if you are working out first thing in the morning. Your body may need a bit more time to really wake up and get warm enough to work hard and handle the intensity.
- Always include something to really get the muscles working, be it activation, isometrics, locomotion or crawling. Use exercises that, while they may stretch, also make the muscles begin to work to stabilize the body. Use exercises that wake everything up. For example, a glute bridge hold will activate the butt and get the muscles working while also stretching your hips. Or a plank reach out and back…It will warm up the core while stretching the hips and activating the glutes. The important part really is to get everything WOKEN UP.
- Don’t make it too long! Too often we skip the warm up to make the workout shorter, when in fact, it doesn’t have to be very long at all. Even the longest, most thorough warm up, including foam rolling, shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes. And, unless you are doing a full-body, super intense workout, it probably doesn’t even need to last longer than 5-8 minutes. Even when I rounded up for my full body warm up, it was still only 11 minutes….And I definitely rounded up. So while you want to get things moving and even a little sweat going, you don’t want to sap your body of too much energy.
Here is one of my favorite warm ups for a full body or leg day. There is also a great warm up for cyclists and one for runners in the Elite Library….Yes that’s right, you really should warm up before you ride or run!
Here are also some great dynamic stretches to include in your warm up.
What do your warm ups look like?