A Proper Warm-up. Why & How
Want to be a better athlete – a better soccer player, perhaps? Want to stay healthy, injury-free for the long haul? Perform better on and off the field?
If you answered yes to one of those questions – then a proper warm-up is vital.
The primary goal for training is not only to improve performance, but to stay healthy while you’re doing it.
As the above quote, “Durability is more important than ability” states, no matter what your goals are or how talented you are if you can’t stay healthy and injury-free then it will be very challenging to reach these goals.
Too often though athletes/clients overlook their warm-up and leave out this vital training component. Whether it is not performing a warm-up at all or skimping through it with a few stretches here or there with no real direction – you’re missing out on a critical component that can help take your performance to the next level.
- Prepares the body for the best possible training session both mentally and physically by increasing your mind-muscle connection.
- Increases blood flow to muscles
- Increases overall core temperature
- Improves joint lubrication
- Excites the nervous system
- Helps improve body awareness
- Helps groove certain movement patterns (ie. squat/hinge pattern)
- Helps keep you safe throughout your training sessions
The list can go on but you get the gist. The better you prepare for your training session the better that session will be. As important as I believe the warm-up is – it doesn’t need to last forever. Ten minutes should be efficient amount of time to achieve all of the above.
How to Warm-Up
Here’s a sample that you can start using immediately. I prefer to progress from ground-based exercises to moving exercises. Meaning you start lying on the ground, performing more isolated exercises and progress to standing/moving, performing more integrated exercises.
I have found this to be:
- More time efficient
- Easier for athletes/clients to remember
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
The Ins & Outs: Helps activate the glutes and trains hip extension.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground
- Lift one knee into your chest. Brace your core and extend your hip by driving the foot into the ground
- Make sure you initiate the movement with your glute and not your lower back
- Ideally you’ll lift up to the point where there is a straight line between your shoulder, hip, and knee
- Lower and repeat
- Shoot for 6-8 reps/side
The Ins & Outs: Great for core stability. A great starting point for all other exercises (ie. push-up)
- Set up on your elbows and go all the way to the ground
- Initiate the movement by pushing yourself away from the ground
- Make sure your embracing your core as if you’re about to get socked in the stomach and squeezing your glutes together.
- Ideally you want to be in a straight line from head to toe. Do this by continuously bracing your abs and not letting the lower back sag
- Start with 10 – 30 second holds (keep in mind you should be bracing hard throughout – this should be challenging)
The Ins & Outs: Great for core stability and for posterior chain stretch – particularly the gastrocnemius (calf).
- Set up in a push-up position with hands about shoulder width apart and up on your toes
- Perform a push-up. Once back to the top position – hike your hips up and drive your heels into the ground and keeping your legs straight
- Make sure you’re not just hanging out on your shoulder joint – keep pushing the hips up and reaching through your upper back
- Return to the start and repeat
- Shoot for 6-8
Spiderman Lunge with Overhead Reach
The Ins & Outs: Great for hip mobility and for thoracic spine rotation
- Set up in a push-up position with hands underneath your shoulders and on your toes
- Lunge your right foot forward so it is just outside your right hand
- Drive your left arm into the ground and rotate your right arm towards the sky – follow your hand with your eyes
- Return to the push-up position and repeat on the other side
- Perform 3-4x/side
Reverse Lunge With Rotation
The Ins & Outs: Great for hip stability and mobility and thoracic rotation
- Standing tall with hands behind head – step back with your right foot, drop the back knee while maintaining the majority of your weight on the left/front leg
- Rotate towards the front leg
- Drive off the front leg and return to the start position
- Repeat on opposite leg
- Perform 3-4/leg
Squat To Stand
The Ins & Outs: Great for hip mobility
- Stand tall with feet shoulder with apart
- Bend over and touch your toes
- Grab on to your toes and pull yourself into the bottom position – use your elbows to push the knees out and push the chest out
- Drive hips up (getting a good hamstring stretch) while holding on to your toes
- Perform 6-8 reps
The Ins & Outs: A great adductor (groin) stretch and great for frontal plane (side to side) stability
- Step out to your side – making sure to sit back into your hip of the working leg. Lean forward at the torso but be cognizant of not rounding your back.
- Make sure that your knee doesn’t jolt forward over the toe, weight should be in all 3 points of your foot (big toe, little toe, and heel)
- Keep the opposite leg straight – feeling a stretch in your adductor
- By pushing off the entire foot of the working leg – drive yourself back to the start position.
- Repeat on opposite lef
- Perform 3-4/leg
There you have it. A great warm-up that if done properly and mindfully shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
Keep in mind this is a general warm-up. If you want to make this more specific then add in movements that will further prepare you for your session. For example before soccer practice or a game: add in movements such as skipping, hopping, lateral bounds to sprints. If you’re gearing up for a session in the gym then you can extend your warm-up with additional sets before your main lifts.
Give it a go and let me know how you feel.