Do This Differently: Intelligent Warm Ups to Optimize Specific Workouts

Do This Differently: Intelligent Warm Ups to Optimize Specific Workouts

Spartans don’t switch things up for the sake of change. They do things differently with intention. That’s what this series is all about. In this Spartan Fit franchise, we’ll share ways to purposefully adjust or modify certain aspects of your training to optimize performance. Next up: how to warm up, based on your planned workout. 

“Regardless of what you're doing exercise-wise, a warm-up is an absolute must,” says Sam Stauffer, Spartan’s Director of Training. Ideally, you can dedicate 10 minutes to it. Of course, some athletes' bodies will need more time to get in the groove while others might be able to get away with less. The key? Identifying and targeting your sweet spot. 

Beyond just doing it, your warm up should be purposeful. It should differ depending on the workout you’re about to do. Here's how to prep yourself based on your planned fitness goals for the day. 

Related: Q&A: Should I Foam Roll Before Or After A Workout?

Top Warm-Up Exercises by Fitness Activity (Train Smarter & Prevent Injury) 

If You’re Going to Run…

WARM-UP EXERCISE: Do a dynamic warm up focused on your lower body, adding a few upper body moves to the mix. 

“The objective behind a dynamic warm up is to elevate the heart rate, turn your core temperature up, and get you moving,” says Stauffer. Moves like high-knee skips, a lunge matrix (forward, reverse, rotational, and lateral), and a Carioca running drill (a.k.a. grapevines, where you criss-cross your legs as you jog sideways) will do the trick. While counterintuitive, your upper body plays a major role in running and should be warmed up as well, so make sure to drive those arms during your skips and throw in some shoulder circles. 

PRO TIP: “Your warm up should tap into all planes of motion to get the body fully woken up,” says Stauffer. That means you should be moving front and back, side to side, and rotationally. 

If You’re Going to Lift for Hypertrophy…

WARM-UP EXERCISE: Do targeted dynamic stretches.

“There is a difference between a dynamic warm up and dynamic stretching,” says Stauffer. The latter is more controlled and it’s a good way to prep for a lifting session that's focused on building muscle. Why? You mimic the lifts that you're about to do with stretches, greasing the wheels of those movement patterns. If you'll be doing heavy back squats, warm up with deep yoga squats, for example. If you plan on deadlifting, do resistance-free single-leg deadlifts.

PRO TIP: Instead of rep count, go by breath count, says Stauffer. “While you’re doing these stretches, take a deep breath in through your nose, then breathe out slowly (through your nose or mouth) for one rep.” 

If You're Going to Lift for Power…

WARM-UP EXERCISE: Do full-body dynamic stretches and mobility exercises.

“This type of exercising is typically more intense and will require your full body's attention,” says Stauffer. That’s why you should prioritize a full-body warm up versus targeting specific muscle groups, like what we recommend above for hypertrophic lifting sessions. 

“Adding mobility exercises to your warm up can open a window of increased range of motion, allowing you to perform better,” says Stauffer. 

PRO TIP: This is the warm up you really can’t skimp on. Consider dedicating 15 minutes to it, even if that means you cut time out of your actual workout. 

If You’re Going to Do Conditioning Work...

WARM-UP EXERCISE: Do a full-body dynamic warm up.

Before something like HIIT, similar to running, you should spike your heart rate and core temperature. Try high-knee skips, overhead squats, and jumping jacks.

PRO TIP: “If your warm-up routine does not leave you feeling mentally prepared for the workout, do another round,” says Stauffer.

If You’re Going to Do a Bodyweight Workout...

WARM-UP EXERCISE: Use static stretches.

If you’re not a fan of static stretches, a dynamic warm up also works, too. But, hear this: “Unless you're walking into a powerlifting competition or other event which requires you to be at optimal power output, I still find value in static stretching as a part of a holistic approach to a warm up,” says Stauffer. 

Try pigeon stretch, half-kneeling hip flexor stretch, prone lat stretch, standing adductor stretch, and/or half-kneeling hamstring stretch. 

PRO TIP: Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. “The science behind that is that 30 seconds is enough time for your Golgi tendon to tell the muscle spindles to chill out a bit,” says Stauffer. “And, that's where that benefit really comes in.”

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