There is a good amount of research to support the benefits of a great warm-up…
Sports performance, strength, and endurance improve, you become more flexible, your risk of injury decreases, and muscle soreness tends to dissipate.
All of this sounds pretty good. The problem is that most of us dread this part of working out, so we skip it or shortchange it.
But if you aspire to be a peak performer in whatever you do, and want to fight off aches and pains, then commit some time to pre-training to get your body ready.
Check out our article, The Perfect Warm-Up Plan, if you want a stepwise plan to optimize your pre-training attack. Which, I admit, is a pro-level of commitment.
Most of us exercisers are looking to get a great workout in before the kids wake up, squeeze in a run over lunch, or a quick stop off at the driving range on the way home from work.
That’s why I want to propose some tactics to condense the warm-up routine without sacrificing performance. Allowing you to skip over the full grind.
Wear the Right Clothing
One very basic thing happens during a warm-up….your muscles get warm.
Getting your muscles hot improves metabolism, muscle contraction, and joint mobility. If it’s the middle of the summer, this won’t be a problem, but even if it’s slightly cool or you are going to be indoors, start by throwing on a hoodie while going to the gym or field and keep it on until you feel some sweat moving.
People will think you’re crazy when the sun is shining, but you’ll find you’re better prepared to go.
Keep Your Body Moving
Grease the Groove is a principle made famous by Pavel Tsatsouline.
You can read more about Grease the Groove in this article on improving push-ups and pull-ups for Murph. But the gist is frequent, sub-maximal sets of an exercise yield huge improvements in that movement.
I figured this would work for the Crossover program, so I gave it a go. Starting my workday, I set a clock for every hour to perform 1 set of the Activation program.
Honestly, after a month, I wasn’t much stronger, but my mobility improved a ton, and I felt freaking awesome when I got to my workout at the end of the day.
The lesson learned was that keeping your body moving throughout the day does a ton for keeping yourself prepared for movement. It doesn’t require sweat or spandex, just a few reps of an exercise to get your joints and muscles moving.
It’s like Newton’s first law, “A body in motion stays in motion….”
You can eliminate a huge chunk of your warm-up by moving your joints through their full range of motion periodically throughout the day.
You’re essentially moving your 30-minute warm-up into three 10-minute sections throughout the day, eliminating the need for a lot of BS before you start training.
Create a Process
The rules of success from any self-help guru always revolve around routine. This is because, without them, we tend to get off track. A lack of direction is often one of the major issues when dealing with the warm-up.
I’m willing to bet you could squeeze 10 minutes of something into your training plan, but to make this happen, you’ve got to be on the ball — no dilly-dallying, gathering equipment, deciding what to do, or pulling things up on the web.
You’ve got to hit the floor and go to work if you’re going to do something meaningful in 10 minutes.
That’s why a process is important. Doing the same thing every time, on repeat, is the trick to making life seamless.
For example, my daughters usually ask for pancakes on Saturday mornings, which used to be a process. I had to dig through recipes, get all the ingredients together, weigh and measure stuff, and make a big mess to get breakfast on the table.
For many of you, this is a good analogy to your warm-up routine.
Over the years, though, I’ve refined my pancake process to a recipe in my memory that I can whip up in less than 5 minutes using a single bowl.
The point is to create a 10-minute routine that you can roll out once you hit the gym. Try to condense the equipment and go for things that check a lot of different boxes (i.e., like Crossover Symmetry, duh.)
Build it into the workout
My golf buddies and I often use the term “show-and-go.”
One of us usually runs up to the first tee box 3 minutes late, with shoes in hand.
No time to warm up, he just grabs the driver and torques the body as hard as possible to hit the little white ball further than any man or woman has ever hit a golf ball before.
It never seems to go well…
We would fair much better in this situation with the first 3-4 holes of low-intensity, high-skill focus— starting with irons and easy swings— and building the warm-up into the game.
I’ve done this in many workouts before as I wrap up coaching or personal training, and I need to get a workout quickly.
Simply run through 1-2 supersets or rounds of the workout at a lighter weight and at 80% intensity, you’re now ready to roll with the bigger and faster stuff.
Make it an EMOM
E.M.O.M. stands for Every Minute on The Minute and is another excellent way to structure a pseudo-warm-up.
One of the big hurdles created by the warm-up is that, too often, we approach it will little focus or intention. Starting a clock solves this issue and how I usually approach lifting days.
Lower percentage lifts, I’ll hit a set every minute, gradually building up in weight.
For the heavier stuff, I’ll do every other minute, but add some kind of high-power activity— like a few high box jumps or med ball throws — between sets.
It makes things fast and fun, which is usually not said about warm-ups.
Make it a Priority
Even on the days that you’re dragging, you will find that as you get warm and ready, your vigor and readiness will improve.
This hopefully gave you some ideas on ways to implement this thing that’s usually a time suck on the front end of your workout.