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The warm-up is more than getting the heart rate up and

increasing body temperature. While these are two very important

characteristics to get going before training, the warm-up is too

important to generalize. Doing 5 minutes of low-intensity bike or

treadmill work followed by a few static stretches won’t get the job

done. Instead, the warm-up is an opportunity to enhance the workout

and overall movement quality.


In our warm-ups at State of Fitness, we have come up with specific

goals that we need to accomplish during our warm-up. In short, it is

our goal is to improve overall movement and prepare the body for

higher-intensity movements.

There are 5 primary goals for performing a proper warm-up:

1. Increase tissue temperature (which enhances the muscular


2. To prepare the central nervous system (CNS)

3. To “prime” and improve mobility

4. To rehearse and improve overall movement patterns

5. To activate certain muscles to improve stability


Why are these 5 attributes so important? Let's take a deeper look.


1. Increase tissue temperature (which enhances the muscular


Whenever I think of this part of the warm-up it takes me back to when

I played sports in my youth. Before a practice or a game, we never

just jumped into it. We ramped it up with a proper warm-up or drills

to get us sweating. Even as a youngster, I could feel the value of

getting my heart rate up and breaking a sweat before battle. I would

feel more mobile and flexible and have more vigor.

Later I would see why this worked so well. When you increase core

body temperature you also improve muscle tissue extensibility. This,

in turn, enhances movement and performance. Muscles can contract

more rapidly and move more dynamically with higher tissue

temperatures. Any decent warm-up can do this so it’s hard to get this



2. To prepare the central nervous system (CNS)

The Central Nervous System is so important to movement that I don’t

even have the proper education to dissect it. The CNS is an amazing

system that controls just about everything in our bodies. For someone

to optimize movement the CNS needs to get fired up. The better you

can get the CNS going, the better your movement will be.

For years I have been someone who likes to workout right when they

wake up. On at least 3-days of the week, I set my alarm for 3:50 am

and shoot to start my workout no later than 4:30 am. A good dose of

caffeine helps me get the CNS going that’s for sure, but that just

seems to get my mind going. Once I start to warm up and get a sweat

going, my body starts to wake up. Then when I start to throw a

medicine ball, jump some rope, or roll and crawl on the ground I can

feel my body preparing for the lifting to come. If I just rolled out of

bed and started swinging a bell in my basement, I don’t think my body

or mind would be ready.

This feeling happens because a proper warm-up can increase the

sensitivity of our nerve receptors and increase the speed of the

nervous system impulses. It’s the communication tool between the

nervous system and the muscular system before the workout.


3. To “prime” and improve mobility

For the past 5-10 years, the word mobility has been a hot topic in

the warm-up sector of working out. Just like anything in life, it seems

we go from doing none of this at all (my bodybuilding days), to doing a

little too much. But it seems like we have gotten ahold of the whole

mobility concept.

That being said it is extremely important. In my experience with

performing the Functional Movement Screen on hundreds of clients,

lack of mobility in the ankle, hip, and thoracic spine pops up most of

the time. So, enhancing and improving mobility is something we all

need a little bit more of. It’s the main reason why we warm up, to

improve the range of motion. If we want to squat that day, we will

need to enhance our ability to squat and that is where mobility work

comes in. It helps get synovial fluid into the joint lubricating it thus

helping us to move better.


4. To rehearse and improve overall movement patterns

I feel this is the most important part of the warm-up. It covers a lot of

bases and helps a variety of factors such as mobility, CNS, and tissue

temperature. It also gets the body and mind connected to the

movement ahead. We can use low-level loads and intensity of certain

movements to help improve that movement.

Let’s take the deadlift. If we are doing deadlifts that day I like to start

with some basic hip hinge movements with no load, say a good

morning. Then hop over to a light kettlebell deadlift. Then on to the

bar with a low load on it. By the time we are ready to crank up some

weight, the body already has primped the pump to lift with solid form.

Take a basketball player. Even if you are a three-point shooting

expert, you need to start out shooting a little closer. As you rehearse

the flick of the wrist and the release of the ball, you prepare the body

to shoot a little further. The same goes for lifting weights, running,

and cycling.


5. To activate certain muscles to improve stability

In this part of the warm-up, I want to wake up certain muscles that

commonly seem to be deficient. Most of our daily habits require

sitting a lot and performing poor posture. So, I want to take the

opportunity in the workout to ignite a flame in these sleepy muscles.

The glutes, middle back, and core musculature could all use some

extra attention in the workout. In the warm-up, we can utilize

remedial exercises to help train these muscles to work a little better.

So may seem like rehab or may shun off exercises like band walks,

glute bridges, and band pull-apart since compound movements will do

the job.


On a personal note, I have experienced tremendous benefits from

muscle activation exercises. I have had two hip

surgeries and 2 herniated discs. I can tell a dramatic difference when

I include glute exercises and Stu McGill’s (leading spine researcher)

core-type protocols into my routine. If I skip them, my body will let me

know. I take 15 minutes to prepare for my workout. This has allowed me to continue to train hard while having no pain or injuries.


In essence, all of this essentially helps us to increase performance and

reduce the risk of injury. To do this we need to cover a lot of bases. A

warm-up will take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. This may seem like a

long time but the warm-up is the workout. It should start with a fairly

low intensity and end with something that excites the body's systems

and gets you going.


Click HERE to watch a video of a proper warm-up



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