How and why to warm up

Many people don’t warm up–or don’t warm up thoroughly–before exercise.  I think a part of the reason why is that they don’t understand why you do it.  Today I’m going to talk about how and why to warm up.

A number of things happen when you warm up:

  • Joints move through a full range of motion.  This helps prepare them for exercise and prevents injury.
  • Your pulse increases gradually instead of suddenly, which is less stressful for your circulatory system.
  • Blood reaches every part of your body, even the extremities.  That helps ready the tissues to absorb nutrients and remove waste.
  • And maybe most importantly: your brain gets your body into workout mode.  It’s a subtle thing, but it’s vitally important that your brain switch gears to paying attention to your body and its movement through space.  This simple factor helps you prevent injury and improves performance.

So that’s the “Why”, now for the how.  Exercise comes in three basic flavors: resistance training, sports, and cardio.  Each type of exercise benefits from different types of warm-up.  Before I get into those types, I should say that it’s more important for you to warm up, period, than it is to get exactly the right warm-up for your activity.  That said, here are the types of warm-up I recommend based on the workout you’re doing:

Resistance training:

Use dynamic stretches.  That means move your joints through full ranges of motion rather than holding them steady.  Full stretches where you hold the stretch for several seconds aren’t appropriate for warm-ups, because they can cause your muscles to relax too much, leading to injury.  Some examples of dynamic stretching that you can do are shoulder rolls, torso rotations, hip circles, and ankle rolls.


Mimic the movements of the sport you’re about to perform.  For sports that require rotational movement, like baseball and golf, do some torso rotations.  For basketball or soccer, do something like high knee marches and ankle rolls.  After you’ve gotten in some of these dynamic stretches, you can switch to more strenuous warm-ups like jumping jacks and lunges.


Many people skip warming up all together with cardio, because they view the activity itself as a warm up.  That’s a mistake.  Before cardio, do some dynamic stretching to signal your brain that you’re going to get into activity mode.  Then when you do start, start slow and easy in order to bring your heart rate up gradually.

Whatever kind of workout you do, make sure your body is ready for it.

If you found this information helpful, please remember to share it with anyone who might also benefit!

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