Creating a Quick and Effective Exercise Warm – Up


“If you don’t have time to warm up, you don’t have time to workout.” – Jim Wendler, 5/3/1 Training Program

I absolutely love that quote by Jim Wendler.  Nothing bothers me more than someone who walks into the gym and starts exercising, without warming up.  This is a recipe for disaster on so many levels.

Ever been to a pro sporting event?  Notice how the players hit the field HOURS before the game starts.  NFL football players literally start warming up for the game 3 hours before kickoff!  What makes you think you’re going to walk into the gym, conduct no warm up, and start squatting, deadlifting, or snatching heavy weights?  Or thinking that you’re going to go through the movements in a conditioning workout for a few minutes before attempting to redline your body?

You might get away with it for a little while (especially those younger folk), but eventually, you’re going to hurt yourself.  Plus, you won’t be able to maximize your valueable workout time.  Many people don’t know where to start when it comes to constructing a proper warm up for the workout they’re about to do.  This rant is designed to help you get the creative juices flowing so you can create your own 10 minute warm up.  (Note – This is for those who are working out alone.  For CrossFit coaches, check back in soon for a “how to” guide on creating a warm up for your group classes.)

Minutes 0-2:  Get the heart rate up!

For 2 minutes, your only goal is to get your heart rate elevated.  This is also where you can be the most creative, because as long as the movements aren’t too taxing on your joints, it DOESN’T MATTER what you do!  Just move fast!  Some easy options:

  • Running, rowing, cycling
  • Jumping jacks, air squats, high knees in place, mountain climbers
  • Burpees, jumping rope, lunges

Minutes 2-7:  Full body, full range of motion

This is where you put your whole body through full ranges of motion.  “If you don’t use it you lose it” definitely applies to your body and what positions it can get into.  Use this time to perform 5 full body, dynamic style stretches to regain/improve end ranges of motion.

Perform one movement/stretch every minute.  Move smooth and under control, but always stay in motion during these.  Here are my favorites:

Minutes 7-10:  Fine tuning and workout specific priming

Up until now, the goal has been getting warm and keeping your entire body loose.  During that time, you may have felt a specific area on your body that is tender, tight, or just not working properly.  Now is the time to address that by stretching, mashing, or foam rolling that specific area.  Taking care of the problematic area will be a much better use of your time for longevity than anything else at this point.

If you’re body is feeling all fine and dandy, awesome!  Now you can start “priming” your body for the workout to come.  In short, priming is when you intentionally create awareness of a specific muscle group so that you can use it to it’s fullest.  Often times we forget how to use certain muscles, primarily the ones we can’t see.  Priming is the best way to regain that awareness.  Here are some of my favorite muscles groups to prime:

  • Glutes – Monster Walks – 10 slow steps left, 10 slow steps right.  This benefits you in every single workout you do!
  • Lats – Lat pull down – 10 reps, slow and controlled.  For pull up, muscle up, toe to bar, deadlift workouts.
  • Hamstrings – One leg RDL – 10 reps, slow and controlled with a light weight.  For deadlift, snatch, clean, and kettle bell workouts.
  • Rear shoulders/Traps – Bent over row – 10 reps, slow and controlled with light to moderate weight.  For any shoulder dominant workouts.
  • Hip Flexors – Straight leg swings – for snatch, clean, toe to bar, running workouts.

That’s it!  In 10 minutes, you are ready to hit your workout with purpose.  You have effectively prepared your body for a workout, maintained/gained range of motion throughout your entire body, and primed yourself for an amazing workout.  Enjoy!

Let me know if you need any other suggestions on how to create your best warm up!  I’d love to hear from you!

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