The Warm Up

What I see as one of the least understood aspects of training is one of the most important parts - the warm up! All too often I see people walk into the gym and get right into the main part of their workout, and all too often I hear the same people complaining about sore joints and poor performance. Warming up properly is key to having a meaningful workout, and is never to be overlooked.

A warm up has three distinct parts, joint lubrication, general warm up, and specific warm up. Anybody over the age of 25 is familiar with the feeling of creaky joints in the morning, you gotta work them out a little bit before you can move around comfortably. When you are working out your joints you are actually lubricating them. Our joints have fluids that allow moving parts to move, if you are going to be doing strenuous movements, you have got to make sure your joints are ready.

Joint Lubrication

When loosening up the joints, one should start at one set of extremities and finish at the other. You should finish with the extremities that have more importance for your sport. So for example if you are a climber, start by wiggling your toes, then rotate your ankles, then rotate your knees, then hips, then your back/spine, then shoulders, then neck, followed by elbows, wrists and fingers. This will prepare your joints for action.

General Warm Up

The general warm up serves to raise your core body temperature, and loosen up all your muscles. The body works more efficiently after it has been literally warmed up. When you are "warm" your body temperature actually raises slightly, your metabolism increases, your heart rate increases, your breathing rate increases. All these things enable your body to perform more efficiently than at rest. The goal of the general warm up is to reach this state.

The general warm up should consist of similar types of exercises as your sport. If you play a team sport, you will probably want to jog, and maybe shadow box or do push ups to get the muscles in your upper body warmed up. If you do a sport that requires flexibility, you'll want to do some exercises that incorporate some form of stretching that correlates to your sport. For climbing, I highly recommend yoga movements - warrior 3, downward dog, plank, side blank are all great.

One major misconception about warming up- sitting on your fanny and stretching is not a warm up! What sport involves sitting down and stretching? None that I can think of, so this should not be a part of your warm up. The goal of your warm up is to prepare you to play your sport, the warm up should be a steady progression of movements that work towards your sport specific movements, there is no room for sitting down and stretching, period. To illustrate, think of how you feel after you have sat down and stretched. When you stand, you have to do so slowly, and work the tension out of your muscles, does it feel like it warmed you up? Or have you become more stiff?

The general warm up should last between five and ten minutes. You should feel energized and ready for action.

Sport Specific Warm Up

Once your body is warm, you can begin your sport specific warm up. This involves movements specific to your sport. Start with a very low intensity and gradually work up to full speed. This part of your warm up should last between ten and fifteen minutes.


Your entire warm up, executed properly, will take anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes. If you think you can warm up in five minutes, you are either 15 years old, or wrong. Warming up properly greatly reduces chances for injury, and will prepare you to fully take advantage of your workout.