Creating an Effective Warm Up for Your Next Workout

The role of a warm-up in one’s training program should address key concepts of human physiology and performance to build a stronger, faster, healthier athlete and/or client.  Whether athlete or gen pop, the goal of the warm up should be to physically and mentally prepare your client for the upcoming workout.

Let us spend a few minutes discussing the primary benefits of a thorough warm-up that will prepare your clients, whether athlete or gen pop, for optimal performance.


There are 5 fundamental benefits of properly warming up and they are:

  1. Increased Body and Muscle Temperature: Enhanced body and muscle temperature will improve circulation and improve elasticity in muscles. Additionally, increased muscle temperature during warm-ups of 15-20 minutes may decrease muscle soreness without sacrificing force output.
  1. Improved Blood Flow: Vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) allows for improved blood flow to active muscle tissue delivering oxygen-rich blood and removing performance hindering CO2 and byproducts from active tissues during exercise.
  1. Increased Blood Temperature: Increased blood temperature weakens the binding between hemoglobin (oxygen carrying molecule) and oxygen, allowing for greater delivery of oxygen to active tissues.
  1. Potential Improved Range of Motion: Enhanced circulation and body temperature allows for a better environment to train the full range of motion.
  1. Enhanced Neuromuscular Activity: Increase neural drive during training allows improved motor control and muscle contractions.
  1. Enhanced Mental Preparation: Preparing athletes/clients for the training session will allow them to become more focused and aware of their body.

When developing a warm-up, there is a certain structure that we follow.  We tend to start broad, and then work our way to the most specific aspects needed for that training session.  Below are the main components to a thorough warm-up, in order from broad to specific.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is not a mandatory practice here at Prodigy.  But!  It is highly recommended and encouraged.  During the intro training session we take all of our prospective members through a foam rolling routine.  Foam rolling is helpful and certainly worth doing.  It can make a tremendous impact on movement by allowing muscle and fascia to glide more smoothly. Hitting problem spots a little more aggressively is fine, but generally I suggest pre-training foam rolling be fairly light, smooth and quick rather than slow and painful; the latter I find best saved for after training (this is somewhat analogous to using dynamic stretching pre-workout and static stretching post-workout).

Thermo Dynamics:

Its purpose is to get some initial body temperature increase and systemic loosening in unusually cold temperatures or for individuals who have been immobile for a long period of time prior to training. This should be low intensity and for about 2-5 minutes depending on need. We usually start our class warm-ups with one of these or some basic agility ladder drills since most of our members work sedentary office jobs. This is definitely important for our early morning classes—usually these clients have literally just rolled out of bed. Agility ladder work is a lot more interesting than jogging or rowing and our clients love it. 

Dynamic Warm-up

This is where we get into the kicks and twirlies.  We focus on the acronym M.A.MP, which stands for Mobility, Activation, Movement Prep.  The goal with this portion of a warm-up is two basic things: wake things up, and prepare the body for the movement that will take place in the workout that day.  

  • Mobility – We want to mobilize the joints that need to be mobile and tend to be a little stiffer (i.e. ankles and hips)
  • Activation – we want to activate (i.e. wake up) the muscle groups that tend to become “dormant” throughout the day because of lack of activity (i.e glutes, core, and upper back).  This is also the time where we include “corrective exercises”.  Things like bridges and deadbugs, mini band walks, and rotator cuff activation exercises.
  • Movement Prep – this is where we get into the kicks and twirlies.  Our goal with this section is to begin to slowly ramp up from less strenuous to more strenuous.  Here we throw in exercises like lunges and med ball slams.

Ultimately we don’t want to spend the entire training session time warming up.  We try to focus on keeping our warm up at 15 minutes maximum.  This allows our members to get in, get moving, and get along with their program as soon as possible.

If you have been feeling like your workouts haven’t been what they should be, it might be because your warm up is lacking or even non-existent. Give this template a try and let me know what you think.