How to Choose the Right Warm-Up Exercises

a woman doing warm-up exercises by the water

Most of us know the importance of participating in some kind of warm-up sequence or routine before we begin a workout. Whether you do warm-up exercises with an empty barbell before squatting or work on your mobility prior to exercising, you probably do something before you start throwing weights around or doing a bunch of high-intensity movements.

In theory, we know that warming up matters. What you might not know, though, is how to create an effective warm-up for yourself that actually provides significant benefits (reduced injury risk, better focus, better movement performance, etc.)

Listed below are some of the things I take into account when choosing warm-up exercises and putting together a pre-workout warm-up routine. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just picking out some random movements that look good for the ‘gram.

Type of Workout

First, I think about the type of workout I’m doing. Am I going to be lifting heavy weights? Will I be doing a lot of jumping or high-intensity movements? Am I sticking to simple, bodyweight-only exercises?

The type of workout I have planned has a big impact on the amount of warming up I do. If I have a low-impact, relatively easy workout scheduled, my warm-up is going to be a lot shorter and simpler than if I’m prepping to test my one-rep max for my deadlift.

Type of Exercises

I also take into account the types of exercises I’m doing in my workout. If I’m doing a lower body workout, I’m probably not going to spend a ton of time warming up my upper body, for example. Instead, I’ll put more of an emphasis on my hips and ankles to make sure they’re warmed up and ready for squats, deadlifts, etc.

When I’m prepping for specific exercises, I also make it a point to include warm-ups that will prepare me for those exercises. If I’m deadlifting, let’s say, I’ll likely include some bodyweight hip hinges or single-leg toe touches in my warm-up. That helps me make sure I’m hinging at my hips properly when I go to pick a barbell up off of the floor.

Time of Day

The time of day during which your workout can have an impact on the amount of time and energy you need to put into warming up, too. If I’m exercising first thing in the morning (this rarely happens, BTW), I’m going to need a longer warm-up than if I’m exercising in the afternoon or evening after I’ve been moving around all day.

Room Temperature

The temperature of the place in which I’m working out matters as well. If I’m working out in my house when it’s super cold, I’m going to need to do a bit more warming up than if I’m doing an outdoor workout on a warm day. It takes a little longer to get the blood flowing when temperatures are lower, and I need to be more intensional about prepping before I start exercising.

Muscle Imbalances/Issues

I tailor my warm-ups to the specific exercises I’m doing, but I also factor in my specific muscle imbalances and mobility needs.

My personal warm-up routines almost always include some shoulder and thoracic mobility work, for example. That’s because I have some postural issues (cervical kyphosis, to be specific) that I’m working on, and they require me to give my shoulders and mid-back some additional attention to ensure I have good posture during my workouts.

Everyone’s muscle imbalances and mobility issues are different, of course, so I can’t say what specific exercises you need to incorporate into your routine without assessing you. I recommend considering your personal needs, though, when you’re planning out your warm-up to ensure you don’t leave any stones unturned.

Level Up Your Warm-up Exercises

As you can see, a warm-up is a lot more than 10 minutes walking on the treadmill or slapping a couple of stretches together. There are some specific factors that go into constructing a warm-up routine that actually gets you ready for your workout and helps you get the most out of it.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and you might have unique warm-up needs that go beyond the points listed above. These are some of the most important things that I consider, though, when I’m putting together a warm-up.

Is there anything else that you take into account when getting warmed up for a workout? Comment down below and let me know!

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