I know that you already know that warmups are important. We both know that they prepare our bodies for movement and help prevent injury. They give us focused time to work on movement patterns and address any “crunchy” spots before adding load or force. And they allow an opportunity to mentally get into the headspace needed for training.
So why do we always skip or rush them? (Myself included!)
There are probably a lot of answers to that question… but here are the 2 things that make me actually follow through on my own warmups:
- I know that my workouts are better when I warm up.
- I do warmups specific to the workout I’m about to do, so I can draw obvious connections from the warmup movements to my training movements.
I think that second one is extra important. It’s easier to follow through on something when you understand WHY you’re doing it and can actually FEEL a difference.
Many of us just rely on the warmups we did in high school sports or just swing our arms around and are like, “ok cool I’m ready.” But these generic warmups aren’t actually that helpful (though they’re better than nothing).
Instead, try starting with 3-5 targeted, specific movements. They should be specific to YOU and to the workout you’re about to do.
For example, if I’m doing a squat workout, I do the following warmup:
- Hip Rollers
- Hip Airplanes
- Split Squats
- Ankle Mobility
- Leg Swings
- Air Squats
I do the hip rollers, hip airplanes, and split squats because my hips get cranky, especially in the winter. These movements create space in my joint and make it so I can squat without pain (which often isn’t the case prior to warming up). My ankle mobility is limited, so I give my ankles some love. I use leg swings to dynamically wake up my hips, and I use air squats to make sure everything in the movement pattern feels ready to go. If it doesn’t I can address it before I start lifting.
The best part (besides lifting without pain) is that this whole warmup takes less than 10 minutes. Knowing that each part of the warmup has a specific *purpose* keeps me on task and prepares my body for what it needs to do.
There is no single warmup that works for every person or every workout. But there are definitely some general “rules” to follow to create an efficient and effective warmup:
- Start lower to the ground and work your way up (floor things and then standing things)
- Start with slower, smaller movements (like cat-cows) and progress to more dynamic movements (like leg swings, jumping, or jogging)
- Activate all the muscles you’ll be using in your workout
- Take your joints through the ranges of motion that you’ll use in your workout
- Keep the warmup more dynamic (moving), and save the static stuff (i.e. holding a single stretch/position for an extended period of time) for *after* your workout
I’ve also put a couple 8-minute (!!!) sample warmups for you at the very end of this post. Use them as templates – add what feels good, and subtract what doesn’t make sense for you personally.
8-Minute Lower Body Warmup
- 5-10 Cat-Cows and 5-10 Quadruped Rocks
- 30-60 sec/side Low Lunge or “World’s Greatest Stretch”
- 10/leg front-to-back Leg Swings
- 10/leg side-to-side Leg Swings
- 10 Air Squats
8-Minute Upper Body Warmup
- 30ish seconds/side Thread the Needle
- 10 of each “3-Way Raise” (front raise, lateral raise, reverse fly – can use super light weight on these if you’d like)
- 5-10/arm Shoulder Sweeps (like swimming really slow backstroke, one arm at a time)
- 10 Arm Swings (back and forth across your chest)
- 10 Bench Dips
- 5-10 Push-ups (any variety – including wall, hands-elevated, on knees!)