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Maximize Your Workout: The Importance of a Proper Warm-Up

Updated: May 25

Ground Up Training Members doing lunges in a park

Over the past few weeks, I've been sharing tips on restarting your fitness regimen and getting more active. Today, let's talk about a crucial step that often gets overlooked: the warm-up. It's not just a formality—warming up is essential for getting your body and mind ready for exercise. Let’s break down why it matters and how to do it right.

Ground Up Training members doing warm up push up in a session

Why Warm-Ups Matter

Warm-ups are often seen as unimportant, something you can skip if you're short on time. Not so fast! The wam-up is actually the foundation of your workout.

Preventing Injuries - Warming up gradually increases blood flow to your muscles, reducing the risk of strains, sprains, and other injuries. This is key for anyone doing high-intensity or high-impact workouts.

Boosting Flexibility - Warm-ups raise the temperature of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, making them more elastic and less prone to tears. This helps improve your overall flexibility.

Enhancing Coordination - A good warm-up primes your nervous system, enhancing coordination, balance, and muscle activation. Dynamic movements and activation drills help your body move more efficiently.

Improving Performance - By increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to working muscles, warm-ups can enhance endurance, power, and overall performance during your workout. Your warm-up isn't just something to do casually or skip altogether. It’s meant to fully focus your mind and body, preparing you for the workout ahead. A great warm-up can even help you get in the zone on days when you’re not feeling it, flipping the switch to get ready to crush your workout.

Different Warm-Up Styles

Now, although doing a warm-up is undoubtedly important, there is debate around which type of warm-up is the most beneficial. At this point, I bet you're saying to youself, "I didnt even know there were different ways to warm up!" There are actually quite a few. Let's take a look at some different warm-up methods below.

General Conditioning - Arguably the most popular, this type of warm-up is just about getting some

blood flow through low intensity aerobic work. Usually consisting of about 5-10 minutes of brisk walking, cycling, rowing, or another cardiovascular exercise. The goal here is to get your heart rate up and boost blood flow before getting into your workout.

Ground Up Training client doing the band over and back exercise to open up his shoulders

Dynamic Stretching - Another popular style of warming up, dynamic stretching is pretty much

exactly what it sounds like. Incorporating controlled, repetitive movements through a full range of motion to help improve flexibility, joint mobility, and muscle activation. This type of stretching is not to be confused with static stretching (holding fixed positions for lengths of time) or ballistic stretching (more uncontrolled/jumpy stretches through ranges of motion), which are usually not considered best for warming up before a workout.

Specific Exercise Prep - In this method, knowing exacty what the main movement type of your workout is going to be is very importnant. Here, you will focus on specific muscles and joints by doing exercises that directly mimic the movements of your workout. This tailored approach preps your body for the specific demands of your session.

Ramp-Up Sets - This is a favorite of strength and power lifters. It is essentially just a continuation of the Specfic Exercise Prep method. You set up your exercise and gradually increase the intensity of each set, starting with lighter sets and building up into your working, or hard, sets.

Phased Warm-Up - With greater understanding of fitness becoming more readily available, this comprehensive approach has started to gain more popularity as it includes a little bit of everything and moves you along in more of a flow, slowly ramping up and preparing the body for your workout. Usually starting with some general conditioning and dynamic stretching, then moving into activation drills, movement preparation, and specific exercise prep. Each phase addresses specific needs for a thorough warm-up and gradually ramps up your body's muscles and central nervous system to prepare it for your workout.

Coach Guy doing trap bar deadlifts

Crafting Your Perfect Warm-Up

Now, everyone has their warm-up preference, time constraints, etc, that will influence out what your perfect warm-up might be, but personally, I like a phased warm-up as it is very comprehensive and can be easily tailored to each person, their workout, and their time limits.

Phase 1: General Conditioning - Start with 3-5 minutes of brisk walking, cycling, or jogging to elevate heart rate and increase blood flow.

Phase 2: Dynamic Stretching - Set a timer for about 30-60 seconds and perform dynamic stretches targeting major muscle groups, focusing on movements that replicate those in your main workout.

Phase 3: Activation Drills - Engage in exercises to "wake up" specific muscles, improving readiness for exercise. These can be done for time or reps and sets, but it shouldn't take too long. These drills are only being used to activate, so only a max of 15 reps or 30 seconds for each exercise.

Phase 4: Movement Preparation - Perform movement patterns that replicate your main workout, focusing on the intention and range of motion of the exercise. Remember not to push too hard in this phase, as you are essentially just priming your body for the upcoming workout.

Phase 5: Ramp-Up Sets - Complete 2-3 sets of your main exercises with light to moderate resistance, gradually increasing the load.

Example Warm-Up

Feel free to tailor this example warm-up to your training needs:

  1. General Conditioning: 3 minutes of brisk walking or jogging

  2. Dynamic Stretching: Runner's stretch, inchworms, arm circles

  3. Activation Drills: Glute bridges and shoulder activations

  4. Movement Preparation: Bodyweight squats and push ups

  5. Ramp-Up Sets: Light sets of your main exercises (e.g., light bench presses or barbell squats)

In Conclusion

Don't underestimate the power of a proper warm-up. By investing a little time and effort into your pre-workout routine, you'll reduce the risk of injury and boost your performance. Whether you prefer general conditioning, specific exercise prep, or a phased warm-up, find what works for you and make it a non-negotiable part of your fitness routine. Your body will thank you!

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