Warm ups play a brief but important role in exercise. As the name implies, warm ups are designed to increase body temperature and prepare the individual for the demands of the work to be done that day. However, there are widely differing opinions as to how they should be incorporated into a fitness program. What should they consist of? How long should they be? How should they be executed? This blog will share our philosophy for efficient and effective warm ups.
Content. As stated above, the dual purpose of a warm up is to physically warm up the body and prepare the individual for the movements to be performed later. Warm muscles and tendons are more pliable, which assists in full range of motion and injury prevention. Additionally, exercises that closely mimic the movements for the day provide individuals the opportunity to focus on and dial in their technique before adding load or intensity.
With these two points in mind, we often choose to start light and include movements that directly relate to the work we will be doing that day. For example, if our lesson plan includes power cleans and toes to bar, our warm up will likely include power cleans with an empty bar and kips on the pull up bar.
As a tangential point, stretching is often touted as an absolute necessity when warming up and preventing injury. If you are incapable of achieving the necessary range of motion for the day’s exercises, stretching may be beneficial. However, if you are mostly or fully capable of full range of motion, but it feels tight or uncomfortable, you simply need to warm your body up physically. Injuries are often a lack of adequate warm up, inappropriate loading, or inappropriate volume, not a lack of stretching. If you enjoy stretching, by all means do so. For general purposes, though, we like to keep our warm ups light, dynamic, and pertinent to what we intend to accomplish.
Duration. Once the body is warm and ready to increase in load or intensity, it’s time to move on. This can usually be accomplished within about five minutes. When warm ups are unnecessarily long, people lose engagement and that’s not fun!
Execution. Many gyms prefer to perform coach-led warm ups, meaning the coach stands in front of the class, calling out and demonstrating movements for the class to perform. At times, we may use a coach-led format to help teach or review more complex movements. However, we much prefer a free flow style of warm up, meaning we demonstrate a few movements, then let the class move through at their own pace for a set amount of time. We find this allows the coach to engage and interact with each individual much more effectively, and provides an opportunity to refine movement right away if necessary. Additionally, everyone ends at the same time, which makes transitioning to the strength and conditioning much more smooth!
Warm ups are important, but it’s also important to remember the reason why you are at the gym: to work out! Warm ups can be effective, short, and engaging, which leaves more time for the fun stuff.