What’s the #1 best WARM UP for your workout?

This week I had to send a cheekly little email to our clients about making sure they get to their workout on time.

This is to ensure they are doing the warm up properly – and to remind them how important the warm up is… 

I had a few chats with clients after the email dropped about how they don't really warm up (or cool down) when they workout on their own – whether this is running, cycling, or doing a home/gym workout. 

There is no one perfect warm up, but there are certain elements that need to be considered and included into an effective warm up.

So I thought I would ‘put down on paper' the thought process that we go through as coaches… 

A good warm up prepares the body for effort.

Some people require more time to get primed to train, and some people require less.

As we are predominantly training clients in groups, we need to ensure our warm ups are catering for all abilities. 

Here I’ll go over a very general plan you can adjust for your body and your workout.

First of all, you just need to get moving before working out.

Especially if you are working out first thing in the morning and haven’t long been out of bed! 

Elements of a good warm up…

We want to:

1. Increase body temperature
2. Get the heart rate up to increase blood flow
3. Get more oxygen to the muscles

Getting slightly ‘Geeky’ on you… 

The increase in body temperature helps promote the flow of synovial fluid, which is a liquid that surrounds and cushions joint surfaces to reduce friction.

Synovial fluid makes muscles more pliable and less prone to straining or tearing.

However, in colder temperatures or when your body is not ‘warmed up’ synovial fluid thickens, which impedes its ability to flow freely.

As a result the joints can become stiff or “creaky”.

The opposite happens when you start mobilising your joints. 

(Hard honey = cold joints. Runny honey = warm joint!).

It’s great to start working your joints through increased ranges of motion.

You can use dynamic movements such as arm circles, hip circles, heel flicks, high kicks, toe touches, squats, lunges, press ups, pulling action.

The aim is to cover all main joints – neck, shoulder, hips, knees and ankles. 

There are also the minor joints of wrists and elbows.

Once the main joints have been mobilised, we can start adding in cardio activity like walking, running, star jumps. 

If you were in a gym environment and had equipment available, you could do rowing, cycling, ski erg etc, and even skipping if you had a rope. 

You’ll know you are warming up properly as you start to breathe a little harder and feel like taking off a layer of clothing.

That means your body is waking up and getting ready to work. 

Don’t overdo it here: your warm up isn’t your workout.

We’re just “priming the body”.

After a bit of movement (5-7 minutes is often enough), the key here is to slowly increase speed, intensity, and range of motion as your body loosens up and your brain connects with your muscles. 

We don’t do a lot of static stretching here, that is holding stretches for long periods of time. Static stretching is best done after a workout. 

In a warm up, we prioritise dynamic movements that allow you to slowly increase the range of motion in all your joints.

You’ll know you’re in the right spot when movements start to feel smooth and natural and joints feel lubricated and ready for more work. 

At this point, most people are ready to start training, but it usually depends on the kind of workout you’re about to do. 

We generally add one more section: a specific warmup.

In this stage, you simply perform some of the movements you’ll do in your workout. 

But you use lighter loads (e.g. bodyweight) or only do a few reps. 

The point: to close out the warmup you should start doing some of the things you’ll do in the workout. 

You can also use this final stage to improve your skill with these movements.

For example, you might review technique and then focus on perfect movement in the last part of warmup.

At this point, you should be ready to go! 

Remember, warm up length varies from person to person. 

Age and other factors can affect how much you need. 

Weather can, too. 

If you’re training outside and it’s hot and sunny, you might need less warm up time. 

If you’re training outdoors in winter, you might need more.