Warm Up for Resistance Training

Why warm up before training?

A warm up before training is not only an important topic but an interesting discussion over the past years. Warming up is a fundamental process when optimising muscle performance, by mediating multiple physiological effects of:

  • increased blood flow to muscles
  • oxygen delivery to muscles to enable them to     work
  • removal of waste products 
  • enhancing the speed of nerve impulses

During a warmup, the body gradually increases muscle temperature to reduce the risk of injury and decrease muscle soreness following exercise.

Types of warm ups

Warm ups are done in two parts; one is general cardiovascular exercise to warm up the body’s core temperature using major muscle groups, and the second is more specific, providing neuromuscular rehearsal of the actual exercises being performed. There have been multiple studies into whether a specific, general or combined warmup is optimal. A common theme suggests that a general warm-up followed by a specific warm up of low volume is most effective prior to resistance training. 

The general warm up should consist of either low velocity (slow controlled movement) or low force combined with high velocity (low resistance, explosive) movement prior to resistance exercise to gradually increase the heart rate. Low force and high velocity warm ups have been shown to improve maximal strength by improving neural stimulation and fast twitch muscle fibres. 

Overall, a specific warm up should follow a general warmup to prepare the athlete for upcoming resistance efforts. This should involve putting the body through all the ranges of motion that the athlete is preparing to perform. Dynamic stretches rather than static stretches show larger benefits as they help warm up the specific muscles whilst mimicking similar movements in the program, increasing blood flow to necessary areas. 

Warms up should not be too fatiguing for athletes as this will affect their performance. So, it is recommended that athletes warm up for about 10 minutes and maintain an intensity level of approximately 5/10 RPE. 

Example warm up exercises

General Cardiovascular Warm Up: Aiming to increase core body temperature and promote full body blood flow and oxygen delivery

  • Skipping 
  • Walking/light jog
  • Cycling 
  • Rowing 

Dynamic Stretches: Prepare muscles through full range of motion

  • Leg/arm swings 
  • Walking lunges
  • Jump squats
  • Plank walkouts/Inchworms
  • Side reaches/trunk twists
  • Shoulder dislocates

Activation Exercises: These should be tailored specifically to the exercises being performed under resistance

  • Sumo squats
  • Band pull aparts
  • Face pulls
  • Glute bridge raises/hold
  • Clamshells
  • Push ups