A warm-up is an important part of any training session–everyone knows that.
But unfortunately, a lot of people tend to speed through it to get to the “meat” of the training session. This is not productive!
The way we see it, every part of your training session–including the warm-up–should be an essential part of achieving your goals. Your warm-up shouldn’t be an afterthought or just something you have to get through. It’s just as important to your session as everything else you’ve got planned.
We prefer to call the warm-up a “preparation,” since it should be truly preparing you for your session.
In this article, we’ll talk about what it really means to prepare your body, and why that’s different from a haphazard approach to “warming up.” And we’ll give you a sample preparation routine you can use in your training.
What it Really Means to Prepare Your Body for Your Workout
If you look around on the internets, you’ll see one of two approaches to the warm-up:
- A few quick, random movements that you speed through in order to check off the “warm-up” box.
- A ridiculously long and detailed routine that includes every single joint and body part, and takes longer than the rest of your session.
The problem with both of these approaches is they are not at all specific to what you’re working on. Do they account for your particular goals in this session? Are the movements chosen to address your needs?
That’s simply not possible with a list of random exercises.
In contrast, a preparation routine consists of exercises that specifically prepare your body for the work ahead.
For instance, in our Elements program, when we are going to be working on a lot of squat-related exercises, the prep routine includes a squat warm-up. That way, your body is well-prepared for what it needs to do that day.
It’s not that a dozen different exercises for your warm-up is bad–you’ll still get the benefits of increased body temperature, heart rate, and all that from those movements–but it’s not the most efficient use of your time.
3 Key Features of a Successful Preparation Session
So how do you ensure you’re getting the most out of your prep routine? It obviously won’t be perfect every time, but the following 3 features will set you up for success most of the time.
Make sure that it includes these, and you’ll get a lot more benefit than just rushing through a warm-up.
1. Includes work for particular body areas
It should help you work on improving your range of motion and comfort in particular body areas that are troublesome for you. This takes a certain amount of introspection to determine what areas are most restrictive in your body.
Once you determine which areas are most important for you, choose a few exercises from the appropriate routine:
If you have the time and inclination, you could just go through exercises for each and every joint and body part, but most days that would take more time then we have to spend. You’ll get more benefit and be more consistent when you choose the 2 or 3 areas where you are most restricted and focus your efforts on those.
2. Addresses specific needs for the day’s session
The reason we call this a prep routine is because it should be designed to prepare your body to perform at its very best for the session ahead.
Think about the main focus of your session.
- Are you going to be doing a lot of hand balancing work? You may want to spend your prep session working on wrist mobility.
- Is today a heavy squatting day? Hip mobility exercises might be in order.
- Are you focusing on pull-ups today? You’ll probably want to work on some shoulder mobility in your prep session.
The key, of course, will be finding a good overlap between both of the above two features. You’ll want to work on exercises that help you address specific needs for the day’s session, while also focusing on areas with which you need the most help.
3. Helps you tune in to where your body is at today
The last, and arguably, most important feature is that it’s an opportunity to tune in with your body. This is the most distinctive feature between a preparation segment and a standard warm-up.
Some people find it helpful to incorporate visualization or breathing techniques to help with this, but it’s certainly not necessary. As you work through the movements in your prep routine, pay attention to how each movement feels.
- Are you feeling particularly stiff today?
- Maybe as you’re warming up your hips, you find that you’re able to squat with greater ease today.
- You may discover, as you’re going through your routine, that you’re feeling pretty run down today.
Whatever you learn from being mindful in this way, it will help you adjust your session as needed, or even your expectations. If you were expecting this to be a kickass workout, but you realize your movement is particularly restricted today, you may need to adjust your expectations a bit.
We talk a bit more about this concept in our article on autoregulation.
Sample Preparation Routine
Of course, given the above criteria, there’s no way we can provide a blanket, one-size-fits-all prep routine. Your needs as an individual, and for each session, are unique, so the most important thing is that you’re taking those features into account.
With that said, the following is just an example. Go through it a couple of times and see what pieces of this would fit best for you.
|Flexed and Rotated Neck with Sidebending
|• Keeping your head tucked down towards your chest, go to the furthest point of rotation you can and then sidebend your head (remember the axis of rotation is your nose) as much as you can control.
|Kneeling Back Flexion to Prone Lying Back Extension
|• This is a full spinal movement taking you back and forth from a flexed to an extended position.
• Visualize “opening” your back in the kneeling position and then “opening” the front of your body in the lying extended posture.
• Go slow and steady and feel where in your back is holding the most tension.
|• Starting from hands and knees, trace a circle with your back.
• Imagine taking one point in the middle of your back and making as large a circle as you can.
• Again, go slow and steady and ferret out the most tight areas of your spine.
|• Stride out into a kneeling lunge, where you have a wide enough base with your knees apart to be comfortable moving back and forth.
• Make sure to give yourself enough room to move by having your front foot far enough forward so that your knee is just over your foot when you lunge forward.
• Keep your upper body tall for balance and proper positioning.
|Cross Arm Stretch
|• Moving back into a kneeling position, bring your arm across your chest perpendicular to your body.
• Lean forward and place as much weight as you are comfortable with to stretch the back of your shoulder as you roll onto your arm.
|Alternating Shoulder Prayer Stretch
|• Sit your hips back as far as you can onto your feet and keep your hands outstretched.
• From here, alternate bringing your elbow towards the floor. You can rotate your body a bit to make that happen, but make most of the motion happen at the elbow to stretch your shoulders and lats.
Make Mindful Preparation a Priority
The importance of mindful preparation can’t be overstated. It’s essential to getting the most out of your training sessions and making sure that you’re not overdoing it or setting yourself up for injury.
Mindful preparation is built in to all of our programs, but it’s especially integral to Elements, our introductory program.
Working through Elements will help you internalize this approach to preparation so that you can take that and apply it to all your future training endeavors. Plus, over the course of 8 weeks, you’ll build a foundation of strength, flexibility, and motor control.
Learn the Habit of Mindful Preparation
With Elements, mindful preparation will become a natural part of your routine, while you build essential strength, flexibility, and body control.