I will be the first one to tell you that warming up is for the birds. Ask anyone that goes to the gym on a regular basis if they take warming up seriously, and I guarantee that 99/100 will say that they don’t. In fact, I can probably describe the typical “warm-up” to you right now with surprising accuracy:
Set your shit down
Scan the gym for who’s where and what’s open
Swing your arms in a “wannabe-Michael-Phelps” manner
Pull a foot back to your butt and hold for a fast 3 count, then perform the same movement on the opposite side
Swing your arms again, but this time in circles
Walk to the nearest squat rack or bench and GET TO WORK!
How close was I? Hahaha. That’s what I thought. Some of you are probably reading this and saying, “but I foam roll, too.” Great. Is it a conscious effort to prep your muscles for the work ahead? Or are you using that roller as a back support while you check the Insta for any new likes?
Look, I get it. I don’t like warming up either, but it’s a necessary component to a successful workout and to staying healthy over time. I know we all know this deep down, but it’s one thing to know something, and another to put it into practice.
So here’s what I’ve found to be helpful when I want to just jump straight into a workout and skip the warm-up. First, I write up a light workout. The key word there is workout. This is really a trick I play on myself. I still include some of the things that I would do to warm-up along with several movements and exercises that I enjoy. In other words, I build my warm-up into my workout.
Set the clock for 6-10 minutes. In that time, simply move consistently from task to task without taking a break.
20 High Knees
20 Butt Kicks
10 Air Squats
10 Ring Rows
20 Jumping Jacks
20 (sec) Elbow Plank
You see, these are all straightforward movements that will do an excellent job warming up your body’s muscle tissue, joints and gradually ramping up the Central Nervous System (CNS) in preparation for something harder. Not to mention the fact that, if you frame it as a workout in your mind, you are much more likely to actually do it and get the ball rolling for a better workout.
Obviously, the exercises, rep scheme, and duration are all variables that you can play with. In fact, sometimes I just push/pull a sled for 5 minutes straight. Doesn’t get more basic than that.
The point is that it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you do something that accomplishes 3 things:
Your joints, and body as a whole, should move and feel more primed for movement than when you started.
You should have a light sweat going with an elevated heart/breathing rate.
Your lack of motivation to be at the gym should reduce after a decent warmup. With movement often comes motivation. If you’re dragging ass, the best thing you can do is start the clock and just move. By the end, you’ll be glad you did and you’ll have new energy to tackle the rest of your session.
After you clear the first warm-up hurdle, you can get more specific with the direction of your workout. You can prep for specific movements and gradually load your body so that everything is primed for the real, sexy work. But, as you now know, your workout starts with the warm-up.