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Your Guide To An Effective Warm Up

dr. ravi warming up Feb 06, 2020



Want to know the secret to a good training session? An effective warm up.

Now, I don’t mean hop on the treadmill and walk for 5 minutes, then get straight into your bro sesh. There’s more to it than that. I would argue that a warm up should be just as important as the training session itself. You can’t look at it from a myopic lens of just 10 or 15 minutes, but more at the cumulative effect. If you take a 10 minute warm up, training 3 days per week for 48-52 weeks in the year, that is a total of 1440-1560 minutes. That’s 24-26 hours over the course of a year. 

Instead of saying warm up, we’re going to refer to it as Movement Preparation, or Movement Prep for short. I like this verbiage as it gives more intent for the session ahead and avoids any negative connotation associated with warm up. 

Ok, let’s break down the anatomy of an effective warm up:

  • Core Temperature – This allows you to maximize oxygen utilization and muscle extensibility by getting the body warmed up whether that is through running, biking, rower, or just moving around in general. Goal is to get warm and get a slight sweat going.
  • Dynamic Stretch – The goal here is to improve general lower/upper body range of motion, and as oppose to static stretching, dynamic stretching allows you to maintain elasticity and force output of your musculotendinous units. Some movements such as leg swings, world’s greatest stretch, arm circles, etc. can be place into this category. Think general movements rather than very specific.
  • Mobility – This gets more specific into the joints/movements that you’re getting into for the day. If it’s a lower body day, you will focus on opening up the hip and ankle joint through some banded distractions or active movements such as ankle rocks or hip 90/90 rotations.
  • Activation – This one gets a bad rap sometimes as you will hear a lot of people say that muscles are already active. No shit. But every likes a good pump and feeling muscles going into the training session. This is where getting in movements that increase EMG (electromyography) activity and mind-muscle connection of specific muscle groups can have great benefit going into the workout. If we’re having an upper body day, this can include getting in some rotator cuff and scap work such as prone swimmers or ATYs.
  • Plyometrics/Ballastics – I like this one a lot as it allows you to get your central nervous system (CNS) fired up and really dialed in for the training session. For a lower body day, it could be a jumping plyometric variation or for an upper or full body day, it could be a med ball rotational slam.

Let’s say you’ve got a lower body day lined up with front squats as your main compound lift. Here’s a way to organize your Movement Prep to get your ready for the training session:

  • Core Temperature
    • 5 Minutes Assault Bike – 30 seconds easy, 30 seconds moderate
    • Nasal breathing only
  • Dynamic Stretch
    • 1 round:
      • Leg Swings x 8 each side
      • World’s Greatest Stretch x 4 each side


  • Mobility
    • 2 rounds:
      • Ankle: Knee to Wall x 5 each side
      • Hip: 90/90 Hip Rotations x 8 each side


  • Activation
    • 2 rounds:
      • Four Way Hip Monster Walk x 10 steps each direction
      • Tempo Spanish Squat x 5 reps with 3 second lower, 2 second pause, 3 second up


    • Curl Up Deadbug x 8 each side
  • Plyometric
    • 2 rounds:
      • Altitude Drops x 4 reps
      • Medball Rotational Slams x 4 each side 


Just remember, this can add up to a full day of warm up time. That’s a lot. Instead of taking dedicated mobility and soft tissue time, be intentional with your Movement Prep. You may even notice that all those aches and pains you were feeling might disappear and you’ll finish your training sessions feeling more accomplished than before.


Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS

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