“Do I Really Need To Warm Up?”—Your Guide To Structuring an Efficient & Effective Warm-Up
“Do I really need to warm-up before I exercise?”
I hate to break it to you, but you really do.
This will look different for everyone, but I’m a firm believer that anyone who exercises should be taking the time to warm up beforehand. (Disclaimer: this does not mean you have to spend hours mindlessly stretching or foam rolling.)
The main goal of a warm-up is to get your blood flowing and ultimately prime your body for the main movements of your workout. A warm-up should be specific to your body, specific to your workout, and time-effective. It should focus on intentional and purposeful movements—quality always over quantity—and should be your time to really check in with your body. Our bodies were absolutely made to move, but they were not necessarily made to go from 0 to 100 in a matter of minutes. Think about it. If you’re like me and tend to exercise first thing in the morning, you’ve likely just spent the past 5-10 hours in bed, not really moving, and not under any load. Then you expect yourself to get up, brush your teeth, and just be able to squat optimally right out of the gate? Yikes. Not only is that not optimal, that’s straight up dangerous. On the contrary, many people choose to exercise in the evenings after work. Many of these people also sit at a desk a majority of the day. Then after sitting for 8+ hours, they decide to go out and run 5 miles or hit a heavy deadlift. The exact opposite of what their muscles and joints have been doing for the majority of the day. Again—this can be dangerous and lead to injury.
Movement is beneficial for so many reasons. If you are making it to the gym or making time to exercise amidst your busy, stressful day, that’s a huge win, and I realize simply making that a priority in and of itself can be a huge battle. So I get that a lot of people don’t want to make additional time for a whole warm-up. They think, “Ugh, I don’t have time for this; I’m just going to go straight to the weights so I can get out of here at a good time”. I hear this literally every day. “I don’t have time to stretch”, “I don’t have time to warm up”. BUT what if I told you you could get a really effective warm-up in only 10-15 minutes? And that something this simple would not only help you get a better workout, but also help prevent injuries. You don’t need to spend hours stretching to get your blood flowing or improve mobility! Have no fear—Mama Rachel is here for you.
Below I’ve outlined an easy formula for crafting your own warm-up, depending on your specific activity or workout. All you have to do is pick one movement from each category, and boom, you have yourself an easy and effective warm-up. And even better, there are endless possibilities of combinations, so you can always be changing it up. (Please note, you are NOT limited to just these movements—these are simply examples. Creativity and thinking outside the box are encouraged!)
1 General movement
Purpose: Get the body moving and the blood flowing
Pick one of the following and perform for 3-10 minutes:
- Brisk walking or jogging (treadmill, outside, on a track, etc.)
- Elliptical or stair-stepper
2 Spinal mobility (specifically mid & upper back)
Purpose: Most of us have a tendency to become stiff in this region (especially if you spend a lot of time at a desk), and a lot of exercises require adequate motion in this part of our spine, so it’s important to work on mobility here consistently.
Pick one of the following and perform 10-20 reps (or 10 each side for unilateral movements):
- Prayer stretch
- Thoracic foam rolling
- Thoracic extensions over chair or foam roller
- Thread the needle
3 Breathing/core stability
Purpose: Proper breathing is the foundation of any type of exercise and is also essential for protecting your spine during movement. During any of these movements, focus on keeping your rib cage aligned directly over your pelvis and utilizing 360 degree breathing into your core with your diaphragm.
Pick one and perform 10-20 reps (or 10 each side for unilateral movements):
- Bird dog
- Dead bug
- Pallof press
- Bear hold or bear crawl
- Banded woodchoppers
4 Activity specific movements
Purpose: You’ll want to spend some time prepping your body to get into the optimal position for whatever specific activity you’re doing that day. For example, if you’re squatting, it’s a good idea to do a hip opening exercise or an ankle mobility drill. If you’re doing an overhead press, working on shoulder stability beforehand can be very beneficial. I’ll include some of my favorite examples below.
Pick 2 and perform 10-20 reps each:
- UPPER BODY SPECIFIC
- Prayer stretch
- Upright kettlebell holds or carries
- Scapular push-ups/scapular pull-ups
- Banded wall slides
- Banded pull-aparts
- Plank shoulder taps
- LOWER BODY SPECIFIC
- Banded good mornings
- 90/90 hip flow/shin box
- Couch stretch
- Russian baby makers
- Deep squat hold with reaches
- Banded ankle dorsiflexion
- Hip airplanes
Here’s an example of what it might look like when you put it all together:
- 5 minutes of easy to moderate rowing
- Thread the needle, 10 reps each side
- Pallof press, 10 reps each side
- Hip airplanes, 10 reps each side
- Banded good-mornings, 20 reps
And there you have it! A simple, thorough, and time-effective warm-up. You’re now ready to crush your workout, and I promise you, your body will thank you in the long run. Questions? Still not convinced you need to warm up? Want more examples or ideas? Reach out via the contact tab—let’s chat!