Highlighting The Importance of Warm-Ups

While you may be rolling your eyes on the topic, we can’t deny the truth. Warm ups are important (duh). Many of us know the benefits of a proper prep routine for our training plans or sport practice, but yet, many find themselves half-assing their warm ups or negating them all together. 

I get it. Warm ups can seem daunting and just something we “have to do”. I’m guilty of it myself. All too often I’ve simply thrown on a hoody, cracked my knuckles and just got under the bar. Sure, the training session can be fine and have no issues. But why settle for “fine”? If we are to preach “optimizing” our sessions or “maximizing” our practices, shouldn’t the first thing we do matter? If we coach our athletes or clients to “set the tone”, shouldn’t the warm up be something heavily weighted with effort? The answer should be an overwhelming YES!

Listen, I KNOW you know that warm ups are good for you. I am almost certain you could probably list off reasons why they’re important. What really changed my approach to warm ups (and my athletes perspective) is having a deeper connection to why the “whys” matter. Educating ourselves and our athletes is important, and making the connection to their process can be very powerful. Here are why a good warm up matters:

Increased Body Temperature

Seems obvious but the fundamental purpose of a warm up is to do just that: warm your body up in preparation for more strenuous work. By increasing our core body temperature through a variety of movement patterns, we do the following:

  • Increase circulation to increase nutrient uptake to the tissue
  • Increase temperature of motor neurons to improve current transfer of electrical signals
  • Increase blood flow to lubricate respective joint tissue

We’ll dive into potentiation in a second, but just know that by simply increasing our core temperature before exercise, we (by default) improve nutrient uptake in our tissue, create a better current transfer for signaling to the tissue and lubricate the joints associated with movement. 


Building on current transfer, incorporating gradually higher intensity exercises in the warm up has been shown to improve potentiation before the bulk of main work in a session. Think of it like supercharging your tendons; you recruit more motor units throughout the preparation period to “fire on all cylinders” when the demand is needed.

While this may be redundant information for many, some simple examples could include transitioning from extensive to intensive plyometrics (eg: Hops to Jumps) or less intensive to more intensive sprint based drills (eg: 10 yard build-ups to flying 10’s). You can choose to keep the warm up choices as specific or general as you deem fit. The point is that you want to be able to transition to the main work of your session as seamlessly as possible; maximizing your warm up for potentiation effects can be a great tool for this.

Systems Check

A great lens to view your warm up through is as a systems check. Use exercises to gauge how prepared you are to actually perform the session. This will take some specific coaching to ensure the exercises prescribed have clear goals of what to strive for and where/how to feel them.

Have your athletes or clients feel the movement through each rep. For example, if doing single leg airplanes, are they able to feel stabilized while getting hip external rotation? To what degree are they able to stabilize and control that range of motion? This can take practice, but once they become comfortable as to what a good baseline feels like, they can better gauge (based on skill execution) how they may perform during certain tasks of the main work.

Now, this isn’t a black and white type of monitoring. Think of it like flying a plane. You run a systems check on the runway before takeoff. You check your systems to gauge how prepared you are to fly. While not ideal, you can still fly a plane on one engine, you just may want to adjust for the flight. It’s not always an indicator of how you’ll perform, but it can shed some light on how skills may be expressed for the day. 

Some Warm Up Strategies

Whether you have an individual client, small group or larger team, there are endless ways to structure some simple, time efficient warm ups that cover a lot of bases. Whether it be on the spot work, lane dynamics or simply building in your prep work into your main series, there are solutions for your environment. Below we’ll outline examples.

For those with less space, the following structure can be done on the spot with only 4’ x 4’ of space necessary for each athlete. It’s space efficient, time efficient and can be done on cue or on certain commands as you deem fit. Feel free to modify any exercises in this skeleton to best accommodate your group.

For those with more space, a simple lane style format could be effective for larger groups. Have them go through more general type exercises before progressing to extensive and intensive plyometric or sprint type drills. A simple format is below:

If you have a gym goer eager to get after it, I recommend building the warm up into their actual exercise series. It can feel like part of the main session but it’ll cover all the bases mentioned above. We’ll use the bench press for our example below:

In Closing

While warm ups can be daunting, we can appreciate the purpose they serve. By putting true emphasis on maximizing our prep work routine, we (by default) seamlessly transition our efforts to be optimal for the work to come. Think it over, I feel you’ll “warm up” to the idea.


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Do You Need Machines To Get Fit?

Here’s a big question in the fitness world: Do you need machines to get fit? The short answer: No.  Here’s a very quick history lesson:


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