What the perfect warm-up looks like

What the perfect warm-up looks like

by Muhaimin X 06 Jul 2018

The warm-up routine is an important aspect of your training schedule that should never be overlooked, regardless of whether you’re a fresh-faced beginner or a seasoned veteran. A proper warm-up routine primes your nervous system and readies your circulatory and muscular systems for the workout ahead. A full sequence takes around 10-20 minutes and should be broken up into 3 progressive stages: Wake-up (3-5 minutes), Loosen-up (5-7 minutes) and Fire-up (5-7 minutes).


The wake-up

Begin your session with low-intensity steady-state cardio for 3-5 minutes. By doing so, you get your tissues moving and heart rate up. A popular choice is getting on a rower or an aerodyne bike and working at around 50% intensity. Even if you’re excited to get things started, resist the urge to ramp things up at this point. Keep things relaxed, but not to the point where your body is exerting little to no effort.


Time to loosen up

Make use of your now warmed-up body by bringing it into mobility drills next. Choose 1-2 body parts that will be primarily utilised during your workout. Stretch each area for 1 minute on each side or 2 minutes total if it is a bilateral movement. Here is a quick reference for those who are not familiar:

  • Upper body pressing: chest, triceps, and thoracic spine
  • Upper body pulling: lats, t-spine, biceps, and forearms
  • Lower body pushing: glutes, quads, hip flexors, ankles/calves (really anything lower body)
  • Lower body pulling: glutes, hip flexors and hamstrings


Determining which body parts to work on (if you have more than two to pick from) is a matter of deciding which ones tend to exhibit the most amount of restrictions. So if you’re squatting after spending a long day of being seated in the office, you might want to focus on working your hip flexors and glutes. These considerations can shift over time, so it helps to periodically reassess where your body is at instead of settling into an immutable sequence.


Fire up the engine

The last segment of the warm-up requires you to add in the movements that you'll be doing during your training session. For example, you work with an empty bar during your warm-ups while incorporating both slow and controlled or fast and explosive actions of the lifts. Using scaled-down variations of the primary movement can also help reinforce proper motor patterns for weaker lifters. With the front squat as an example, a goblet squat can be used to simulate how a lifter maintains an extended thoracic spine and squats straight down while keeping an open hip angle.


When it comes to warm-ups, experimentation is key there are an unlimited number of movements and several methods of implementation. For example, upper-body warm-ups can also fit well into lower-body training days, particularly those involving the back. The key is to start simple and find what works for you. The warm-up is a skill unto its own – practise it with the aim of perfecting it and you training will benefit immeasurably.