Warm-up 101

How to design effective warm-ups

This article explores the criteria and structure of an effective warm-up and offers advice on how to assess and plan accordingly. First, let's have a look at what a good warm-up looks like. Back in 2003, Greg Glassman, the founder and CEO of CrossFit, discussed why fifteen to twenty minutes on a bike or treadmill, while largely a waste of time, are still better than nothing [1]. However, we can do better:

"We need a warm-up that will increase body temperature and heart rate, provide some stretching, stimulate the entire body and major biomechanical functions, provide practice for basic movements, and finally, prepare for rigorous athletic training."

A basic structure

We generally suggest that you structure your warm-ups into a general part and a specific part. They don't necessarily have to be performed sequentially, but keep in mind that they serve different purposes which are discussed below.

Before you put together a warm-up, ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • What activity does the individual do for the majority of their day? An office worker will have different needs than a construction worker.
  • What is their background? Have they played any sports, and what patterns and imbalances does this impose on them? Also watch out for any pre-existing medical conditions (e.g. hyper-mobility, dislocated joints, etc).
  • What is their athletic level? For instance, 10 wall walks is not a warm-up for a beginner athlete, but a strength workout.
  • What are you preparing for? You better warm up those shoulders and hips before your athletes hit 80/60kg Thrusters, whereas you will get away with less preparation for empty barbell Thrusters (for example, in "Jackie").

Consider these two scenarios:

  • A) A construction worker with 5 years of experience in strength training and a back squat of 2.5 times body weight.
  • B) An office worker with 3 months of experience in functional training, who has just learned how to properly perform an air squat and not lifted his or her arms above shoulder height in the last 11 hours.

As you can see, these are two very different athletes with different needs. WarmApp provides you with plenty of options for any type of athlete and workout.

General warm-up

This is not rocket science. The general warm-up is simply intended to raise the body's readiness for physical exercise. Motorbike fans know that you don't just start the engine and cruise off at full speed.

Use low intensity cardiovascular exercise such as walking, crawling, jogging, rowing, skipping, or biking to increase the heart rate and blood flow to muscles. Give it a few minutes until you get sweaty before you advance to the movement-specific part.

Specific warm-up

The movement-specific part will heavily depend on the exercises you want to prepare for. Preparation for a squat strength-session will be different to a session with muscle-ups and pull-ups.

The goals are to:

  • Use dynamic exercises to loosen up the joints and muscles (static stretches will lower the heart rate and cause a cooling effect, thus defeating the purpose of the warm-up).
  • Focus on the specific body parts to be used in particular movements.
  • Work on specific skills needed for particular movements and transferable general skills that will develop the athlete.
  • Progress gradually, starting at low intensity and building up to greater intensity.
  • Reach 100% readiness (skill and physical) by the end of the warm-up.

WarmApp provides you with a range of exercises that tick all of those boxes. Our search function analyses your movements in terms of movement archetypes, skills and mobility requirements. The only thing that you have to do is to choose the ones that suit your situation best.

References and additional readings