Your Warm-Up Is Not Your Workout

I’ve never claimed to be petty-free, but this just needs to be said:

A warm-up is a warm-up.

It’s not a workout. It’s not a performance test. It’s not physical therapy.

It’s a warm-up.

Do you ever look at the self-proclaimed strength coaches and experts on social media, and your eyes roll back in your head so far that you can see your brain? I relate.

In the latest non-stop stream of strange posts, I kept seeing a coach post Instagram stories of his athlete sweating and dead tired “after just the warm-up!”. Another trainer that somehow shows up on my newsfeed uses a 30min warm-up (prehab, rehab, vision training, movement, then… warm-up) and then a workout.

You guys.

Things have changed.

When I was in high school sports, our warm-up, ever day for literal years, used to be:

2x400m Run
~10 Pushups and Situps
5min Static Stretching
Sport-specific movements

We did that by ourselves, since we knew exactly what it was and how long it would take. I could do it with my eyes closed.

Yes, there have been too many arguments to count about whether static stretching is a friend or foe, but that’s not the point.

The point is, whatever workout you’re going to do next, warm up for that. Get in and get out efficiently.

If you’re about to run, you probably need warm calves, warm quads and hams, warm glutes, and warm shoulders. You also need your pulse up a bit and mobile ankles.

If you’re about to squat heavy, you need hip mobility, warm back, abs, quads, hams, glutes, and shoulders. Also, pelvic control and breathing.

If you’re about to train a basketball skill session, you probably need an overall warm body, raised pulse, and some landing mechanics and sprint techniques.

Warm up for your workout. Not because it’s fun, or you think prehab is cool, or because everyone on the internet is doing it.

Don’t overcomplicate it.

If you’re physically and mentally tired after your warm-up, you’ve missed the point. It’s supposed to prepare you for your workout, not exhaust you before the training even starts!

Here are my go-to warm-up tactics:

  • Keep it under 15 minutes.

  • Get your pulse up and whole body moving a bit.

  • Do a basic mobility check-in; make sure there’s no pain and that everything is moving.

  • Run through your basic movement patterns; open up your chest, your hips, your back, etc.

  • Get WARM! Activate your muscles, especially those you’ll need a lot of during your session.

  • Check your brain. Get it on the same page as your body.

  • Move toward a technique-specific warm-up, if they’re not already in your workout.

  • OPTIONAL: a quick vision training; this doesn’t need to take more than 2 minutes.

Simplicity is your friend. Keep it prompt. Keep it efficient. Get warm and then get out!

TL;DR: if you or your athlete is tired after just the warm-up, shorten that sh*t, be efficient, get everything warm, and get to training already!