How to Optimally Structure a Warm Up

Act with Intent

Act with Intent

What is a the best “Warm Up”?

When you get right down to it, the “warm up” is what you do to prepare your body to perform at it’s highest level it can for a training session. I call this the Pre-Performance State.

How should you be structuring your “warm up”?

There is a common practice these days to do random warm ups. Throwing movements together in any combination, just to get the body moving. However, these lack focus and the ability to achieve an optimal pre-performance state.

How the “warm up” is structured depends greatly on several factors such as; the structure and length of the training session, the athletes experience and work capacity, and the athletes body type and how structurally sound they are.

For the sake of simplicity I am going to make a couple of general assumptions when tackling this issue.
The athlete has at least good technical skills
The athlete has enough work capacity to handle a sufficient warm up without getting overly fatigued.
The athlete has minimal structural problems.
The athlete is performing only one segment of training. Multiple segmented training typically has a lifting component and a metabolic component. The warm up for multiple segment training has some important variations.

Achieving the pre-performance state starts with a simple strategy. Just get moving.

OTGF General Movement Prep:
Head to Toe Mobility: This is where we take each joint and move it in at least 3 planes of motion for 10 reps each, starting at the neck and working down to your feet. This takes about 5-7 minutes.
This is great way to just get the ball rolling and gently takes the athlete from a low level of activity to a “pre warm up” state without any undue fatigue. It also allows the athlete to do a quick self check of what is tight and might need extra attention.

Specific Mobility Prep:
This phase should cover at least 3 components:
1. Anything identified as a trouble spot in the General Movement Prep
2. Anything that has previously been identified as a mobility issue
3. Specific mobility required for the training session.

Cardiovascular Prep:
5-10’ of light cardiovascular work in the form of running, biking, rowing, etc. This should be non-taxing and simply serves to increase the aerobic enzyme activity (aids in performance output and in recovery from the training session) and helps to regulate core temperature (super important during the training session).

Specific Movement Prep:
The goal of this segment of the “warm up” is to get the body to be able to perform the movements in the training session with maximal efficiency and minimal effort.
This phase should cover at least 4 components:
1. Technique work – focus on creating good movement patterns for all movements within the training segment.
2. Speed – think light and fast – use sub maximal efforts
3. Progression of work load – ramp up gradually – starting lighter is never a bad idea.
4. Allow sufficient recovery from each piece of Movement Prep to minimize pre fatiguing.
For single mode work, such as running, now would be the time to include short intervals of 10-30 seconds.

At this point the athlete should be ready to dive in to training, testing or competing. They have worked their general mobility while gradually increasing core temp with minimal metabolic cost, they have mobilized their trouble spots and they have find tuned their technique while increasing the load up to the level of activity they are going to engage in. This is the end of the preparatory period.

Next up:
How the “warm up” changes for different work out durations (short 10’ or less, 10’ to 20’ and 60’+ efforts).

Bob Cook
Physiotherapist and Sports Performance Specialist
Off The Grid Fit


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