Why We Warm Up For Training

Why We Warm Up For Training

Why we Warm Up?




Watching David Attenborough’s showPlanet Earth, we see how animals can warm up in no time at all and reach high speeds chasing their prey or running away from a predator. This is done with such speed and ease for these animals without causing injury to themselves.Although we are superior species on planet earth, we are not in the same league as the animals we see on TV. We need to warm-up for a much longer period of time prior to exercise to be able to achieve optimal performance.


In the past, many people enter the realms of the gym looking to get their session done as quickly as they can so that they can either get home earlier or because they are training on their lunch break. But in doing so, completely disregard the most important part of their session - the warm-up.


Whatever the reason has been, we have all been found guilty of treating the warm-up as the unnecessary part of our training session. Just like nutrition is a foundation of our fitness pyramid, the warm-up is the foundation to our training session and competitions.


However, recent times have seen more and more people start to value the warm-up. We still follow the general principles of the warm-up from the past, but with more research, it has shown the ineffectiveness of old warm-up methods and paved way for new ideas bringing about the RAMP (Raise, Activation & Mobilisation, Potentiation) protocol from Professor Ian Jeffreys of The University of South Wales (6).


We used to view warm-ups to prepare individuals mentally and physically for training. However, we have improved this model using 4 key purposes:


1.     MentalReadiness

2.     PhysicalReadiness

3.     InjuryPrevention

4.     PerformanceEnhancement

The research over recent years shows warm-ups both reduce and enhance athletic performance (3).Coaches need to make sure they involve the 4 key purposes to the design of their warm-up to allow maximal athletic potential of each individual they train. From this, the individual will increase blood flow, muscle temperature and core temperature which will all have the following positive effects on performance:

·      Faster muscle contraction & relaxation (6).

·      Improvement in Rate of Force Development (1).

·      Improved reaction time (1).

·      Improved strength and power (2).

·      Increased blood flow to active muscles (8).

·      Enhanced metabolic reactions (4).

·      Improve muscle elasticity (4).

·      Increased oxygen delivery to muscles through greater release of haemoglobin and myoglobin (8).


How to manipulate the warm-up to make it more efficient?

It is the job of the coach to create a warm-up that is not only effective for the session but is efficient. This all depends on time constraints of each individual. Each coach needs to be aware of the mental, physiological, and biomechanical demands of each individuals training session or sport. This will be acquired through a what we as coaches call a ‘needs analysis’.

For example, planning a warm-up for a 1-rep max (1RM) test, needs considerations of the mental, physiological, and biomechanical demands of that session by establishing ways to enable each individual to get hyped up in a way that works for them.Using self-motivational music has been found to enhance performance (7). So, encouraging techniques like this can have a hugely positive impact on their1RM. As we read earlier mental readiness is not the only purpose when creating the warm-up, adopting a routine to prepare for the physiological demands of the session is vital to success. So, when preparing for a 1RM we need to make sure the individual is ready by including biomechanical preparation, dynamic mobilisation, activation and potentiation exercises that are similar to those being performed in the session.

We can manipulate this in so many ways by adding time constraints on sections, reducing volume of exercises or even incorporating a circuit style, making sure we combine the main phases on the warm-up: Raise, Activation, Mobilisation and Potentiation. Also, as Mai-Linh, AthleticTherapist states that you can also add the integration (potentiation) exercises around your main lifts of the session the create a more time effective warm-up and session.


Warm-ups will last for between 10-30minutes following a strategic plan. Following the ‘RAMP’ model produced by Professor Ian Jeffreys:

1.     Raise

2.     Activation & Mobilisation

3.     Potentiation

Each of the three phases of this warm-up model plays an important role in the athlete’s preparation.


During this phase we aim to increase:

1.    Body temperature (8).

2.    Heart rate

3.    Respiration

4.    Blood Flow

5.    Joint viscosity

We can achieve this through using motion and multidirectional light exercises. Some examples of this are:

·     Change of direction drills

·     Cardiovascular machines

·     Bodyweight squats, lunges, crawling and rolling

Completing drills like these won’t create too much strain on the body which could cause injury. However, each movement can increase in intensity through the duration of the raise phases to facilitate the aims of the ‘Raise’ phase.

Activate and Mobilise

During this phase we look to:

  1. Activate key muscle groups
  2. Gain control of movement about a joint
  3. Improve body awareness e.g neural control     of the foot creating a stable base to move from.
  4. Mobilise key joints and ranges of motion     used in the activity.

During this phase of the warm-up, typical activation and mobilisation movements include:

·         Mini-band exercises

·         Balance work (foot stability exercises)

·         PNF movements

·         Soft-Tissue massage (foam rolling, lacrosse ball)

·         World’s Greatest Stretch

·         Squats and lunges

·         Inchworms

·         Spinal mobility exercises (flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation)

These types of exercises should be prescribed to the majority of people’s warm-up programmes. Attention should be paid towards individual preparation requirements which can involve rehab or pre-hab exercises, neural control movements and shoulder girdle and hip stabilising exercises. Applying this attention to each individual athlete will result in better time utilisation of the warm-up, reduced injury risk and increased performance.


We use this last phase with a view to prime the individual for training or competition.

The exercises are used directly to enhance athletic performance using the post-activation potentiation (PAP) principle. Doing this high intensity/explosive method will transfer into the session itself. Therefore, we incorporate movements specific to the session, sport or competition itself. The objective of this phase is to:

1.    Ready the individual for increased intensity similar to that of the session, sport or competition

2.    Utilise PAP principle to enhance neuromuscular performance of individual

This phase will include exercises such as:

·     Short Sprints

·     Plyometrics

·     Reactive drills

Although the ideologies are the same, in that we are getting the individual ready for the session, in a rehab setting this potentiation phase maybe too intense for the individual. So, we can use this phase as a more integrative phase incorporating slower controlled movements focussing on more stability and correct functional patterns on the area we are working on.

Whatever the condition of the athlete, the 3-phases will allow the individual to be ready to take on the session in the optimal condition they can be in on that specific day.

Key TakeAways


When creating the warm-up programme there are no real guidelines, but factors such as duration, effectiveness, efficiency and physical requirements of the main session should be considered.


The warm-up should have variation but still focusing on the same muscles and joints used in the session. Being able to this will prevent monotony, increase adherence and enhance performance.

The warm-up shouldn’t be a quick thought-out process for anyone creating one. It should be treated with the same focus and detail as the main session. All coaches will be able to stamp their own personality when planning and carrying out the warm-up. So, don’t feel too regimented, enjoy the process, keeping the focus on the 4 key principles of the warm- up: mental readiness, physical readiness, injury prevention and enhancing performance.


1.     Asmussen, E., Bonde-Peterson, F. & Jorgenson, K., 1976. Mechanoelastic properties of human muscles at different temperatures. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, Volume 96, pp. 86-93.

2.      Bergh, U. & Ekblom, B., 1979. Influence of muscle temperature on maximal strength and power output in human muscle. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, Volume 107, pp. 332-337.

3.     DeRenne, C., 2010. Effects of Postactivation Potentiation Warm-up in Male and Female Sport Performances: A Brief Review.. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(6), pp. 58-64.

4.     Enoka, R. M., 2002. Neuromechanics of Human Movement. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

5.     Hoffman, J., 2002. Physiological Aspects of Sports Performance and Training. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

6.     Jeffreys, I., 2018. The Warm-Up - Maximize Performance and Improve Long-Term Athletic Development. s.l.:Human Kinetics.

7.     Karageorghis, C. I. & Terry, P. C., 1997. The psychophysical effects of music in sport and exercise: a review.. Journal of Sport Behaviour, 20(1).

8.     McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. & Katch, V. L., 2001. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance. Fifth Edition ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.


Josh Stratton

Hi! I’m Josh. I have been working in the fitness industry for 7 years and have a bachelor’s degree in Strength and Conditioning. CrossFit is a passion of mine and I have competed in UK individual CrossFit events for the last 3 years. I am also a Level 1 certified CrossFit Trainer and use aspects of this to develop my strength and conditioning programming. My philosophy is to enhance the client’s health, fitness and movement, allowing them to reach targets above and beyond what they deemed capable #movementlongevity. I achieve this through individualised programming using my experience and understanding of strength & conditioning methods from both my degree and work with sports teams, athletes and the general population. My programming has enabled every client I have worked with to improve their performance levels through all avenues of fitness. I have worked with injuries/rehabilitation, the elderly and in general, help people achieve fitness goals no matter how big or small! I have completed research into gross motor development within the autistic population using a strength and conditioning programme that enhanced both cognitive and motor functions. Following this, I have recently obtained a Level 1 certification in Autism Fitness and this is a population I would be keen to develop programmes and strategies for. My ambition is to enhance every individual’s mental wellbeing and physical literacy for as long as possible so that they always feel they can achieve any task thrown at them each day.