Column: What’s in a warmup? |

Column: What’s in a warmup?

The extremes to which people warm up for exercise can be astonishing.

On one end of the spectrum, a person might perform a couple of lazy arm swings and jump up and down bit before lifting the heaviest weight he can find. Paradoxically, there are those who take supplements, read books an break out a bag full of massage tools in order to warm up for their warmup.

But what is a good warmup, and how long should it take? Your training history, what you are about to do, your injury profile and more will cause variances in a proper warmup. That being said, general recommendations can provide a framework for an effective warm up.

The guide

The initial part of a warmup should be a moderate effort to get the body temperature elevated and the heart rate up. Running, rowing or jump roping will all work here, and 3-5 minutes will suffice. Next, perform prep work based on your needs. Working on mobility in trouble areas, such as thoracic rotation, is a good idea here for most people. Foam rolling, as well as other soft tissue work, will also work.

After this, it’s time to move towards dynamic stretching and more specifically, movements that mimic what you intend to do that day. If you have a heavy day of deadlifting ahead, then greasing the groove with some body weight hip hinges and bear crawls is an excellent idea. People can often get carried away in this part of the warmup, aiming to add too many movements. My suggestion is to pick five key movements that hit every plane of motion and target muscle groups which you know you will be taxing that day. Corrective exercises, intended to help fix dysfunctional movement patterns, can also be added into this section of your warmup.

Next, perform balance work and plyometric-type movements that will prime the central nervous system for the movements you are about to do. Barefoot balance work is an excellent way to work on one’s proprioception and provide greater feedback. Additionally, hopping and skipping variations will help develop better overall coordinative abilities. Medicine ball slams, box jumps and overhead tosses can be done last for plyometric work.

Once this has all been complete, begin working with a weight that’s smaller than you will use in your routine. It’s obvious, but all too often individuals will shoot straight for their top-end set without being ready to control the load.

Although this may seem like a lot of steps, fast transitions between those steps allow trainees to complete a proper warmup quickly. Ten minutes is all this should take, and the body will be primed for maximum performance as well as reduced injury risk.

Jimmy Pritchard has a B.S. from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the Assistant Strength Coach at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or

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