top of page
  • thequancoaching

Why You Should Begin Every Workout with a Structured Warm-Up (The Quan Coaching Podcast Show Notes)

The Quan Coaching Podcast Episode #4 – Why You Should Begin Every Workout with a Structured Warm-Up

· Warm-Up Introduction:

o Let’s warm-up for this discussion about warm-ups with a quick little intro on warm-ups

o Athletes always warm-up

§ Have you ever seen a football team take the field by walking out of the locker room and then sitting on the benches until just before kickoff when they walk onto the field and only then do they start sprinting down the field as the ball is kicked?

§ No, that team is going to run out from the locker room and then likely do a team based warm-up on their end of the field where they are all performing structured movements together and then they will break off and start performing exercises specific to their position. The quarterbacks will start performing throws at 50% power. The running backs will perform agility drills. The defensive linemen work on quickly popping up from 3 point stance. Etc.

§ Again with the Quan coaching philosophy, we are all about living and training like an athlete, and this is yet another principle we are going to take from athletes – the importance of completing a full, structured warm-up

o So why do athletes warm-up?

§ Limited amount of studies to show exactly how much it increases performance

· More studies should be completed; however, it is such a widely accepted practice amongst athletes that there is less motive for more studies to be completed

o And again we are really trying to adapt athletic principles due athlete’s training being more beneficial than randomly training at the gym without a purpose

§ A 2010 meta-analysis by Fradkin and colleagues that looked at 32 studies demonstrated that warming-up increased performance 79% of the time, in varying performance metrics including aerobic and anerobic sports, power activities and agility activities, etc. Specifically demonstrating up to a 10% increase in performance in these activities


§ Later studies continue to demonstrate this increase in performance gained through warming up as well as some studies demonstrating a possible decrease in injury risk

· Fradkin and colleagues also performed a literature review that demonstrated that, while less convincing than their performance boosting metrics, the majority of the evidence does demonstrate that warming up will decrease injury risk


o But it is not enough to just “warm up”

§ So many attack their warm ups without a plan or structure and they lose all these potential benefit

§ But warm-ups can truly result in great benefit if they are structured AND specific

· Structured to address the physiological, biomechanical, and psychological aspects that are specific to each athlete/person training and the sport/activity they are about to participate in

o So in this episode we are first going to go into a bit more depth on all the potential benefits of the warm-up so I can further convince you that you need to incorporate this into every workout. Then we will discuss how to actually plan and structure a warm-up so that you can achieve all these benefits.

· Benefits of a warm-up:

o As always, starting with the science: the physiologic benefits are broken into 2 categories:

§ 1) Temperature-related effects – “warming up” is called warming up for a reason. You are increasing your body temperature because your muscles are breaking down ATP for the cycle of contracting and relaxing the muscle. When ATP is broken down, or hydrolyzed, heat energy is released. This heat energy obviously increases temperature which has the following impacts:

· Some studies have shown that increased muscle temperature could increase resistance to muscle tear

· Increased muscle temperature also increases oxygen delivery to those muscles with increased heat, or the muscles that are the most active, because of something known as the Bohr effect – higher temperatures cause increased release of O2 from the carrier molecules of hemoglobin (which carry O2 in the blood) and myoglobin (which carry O2 in the muscle) This increased oxygen will be important for reasons we will discuss in a second

· Enhanced neural function for more rapid and intense muscle contraction/relaxation due to this being controlled by neural pathways. This also could be part of the reason why warming up has been shown to improve reaction time

· Disruption of transient connective tissue bonds which can increase our range of motion and improve our rate of force development by lowering resistance in joints and muscles

§ 2) Non-temperature-related effects

· Most of these effects can be summed up due to the increased blood flow to muscles due to increased energy consumption. Because the muscles are actively utilizing energy as we just discussed, they will need more Oxygen to continue to produce more energy, or more ATP. In addition, they will have metabolic waste products from producing and utilizing all this energy, namely, increased CO2. Because of the need for more O2 delivery and the need to get rid of the CO2, your body has mechanisms in place to do an amazing thing which is known as vasodilation, or dilating the small blood vessels where gas exchange takes place in organs, specifically in muscles in our case here. By dilating these vessels in the active muscle that needs to get rid of CO2 and get more O2, more blood can flow to this muscle which will allow more oxygen to be delivered and taken up by the muscle which will improve energy production and utilization for the subsequent workout. This can subsequently result in additional strength and power output

o Final category of benefit is one that cannot be overlooked as it certainly plays a large role in the performance metrics that are improved by warming up and that is the psychologic benefit

§ By warming-up, we are in a sense allowing our mindset time to warm-up to the idea of performing the workout or sporting event. We can essentially psyche ourselves up to a healthy level to better be focused on the task at hand rather than if we just jumped right into the activity after getting off the phone with a friend for instance

o So that is the science of how we are increasing our performance and likely decreasing our injury risk during the subsequent workout. And hopefully that in and of itself is enough to convince you that you need to be completing a workout. But as we now talk about how to structure your warm-up to achieve these benefits, you will quickly see that there are even more ways that a warm-up can benefit you.

· Structure:

o 10-20 minutes

§ Integral part of training – a common theme you will see as we are talking about how to structure your warm-up is that we are going to be valuing efficiency by includes activities that not only improve performance for the rest of that individual training session, but also improve overall fitness in and of themselves – i.e. training for mobility, flexibility, injury prevention, agility, etc. as a means to warm up for the remainder of the session that will be focusing on strength or power

· By structuring your warm up this way you will not only be benefiting by receiving the overall fitness improvements, but you will also be more motivated to complete the warmup as you will know that you are not only receiving benefits for that training session, but also for other aspects of your overall athleticism

o RAMP (Raise, Activate + Mobilize, Potentiate)

§ Raise (5-10 minutes)

· Elevating:

o Heart rate

o Respiratory rate

o Blood flow

o Joint fluid movement

· The key is to use low-intensity movements that are similar to the movements that you will be performing for sport or training

o Aka if you are going to be training chest that day, doing upper body centered aerobic exercises are preferred

§ Boxing, rope pulls, arm cycling

o If you are going to be training legs, get on the stationary bike

o This allows us to start working through the range of motion that we are going to be performing throughout the exercise to disrupt the transient connective tissue bonds that we want to disrupt to perform with increased range of motion and increased strength, speed, and power

o Also allows us to optimize our non-temperature related effects

§ Increase blood flow to active muscles which are about to be used in the training session or sporting match


o Efficiency piece for the raise portion of the warm-up: this also allows us to practice sport specific or lift specific movements to improve neuromuscular control or mind-muscle connection with these specific movements and also increase biomechanical properties related to those movements (i.e. increasing ROM, fluidity, and power of shoulder movement used in bench press by boxing

§ Especially beneficial if you are training for a specific sport to use those motions

· Ex: Shadow boxing, swinging a light bat or racket/simulating this motion to focus on form while also getting your physiologic parameters elevated

§ Activate and Mobilize

· Essentially what you are going to see is that as we move throughout the warm-up we should be getting more and more specific in our movement patterns and also getting more and more intense in our movements.

· This stage of the warm-up is centered around mobility and specific movement patterns that are used in the subsequent training session and/or your sport in general

· There has been a lot of debate and scientific studies regarding how we should increase our mobility and work through our ROM in this phase of a warm-up

o Specifically – there has been debate on if static stretching should be utilized

§ The data is fairly clear that we should not be utilizing static stretching here or at any point in the warm-up for a couple of reasons:

· 1) It decreases performance in the subsequent workout

o Foundational study in 2013 by Simic and colleagues demonstrated that static stretching results in a performance decrement in strength, power, and explosive power metrics, when utilized in the warm-up period

o A large majority of other studies have corroborated this, demonstrating that static stretching pre-performance, also may decrease reaction time, running speed, and strength endurance

o Some studies have demonstrated no difference in performance when static stretching is utilized, but from the studies I am aware of, there have been none that have demonstrated that static stretching increases performance and like I said, a majority says it decreases performance

· 2) It has not been shown to decrease injury risk

o A landmark meta-analysis by thacker and colleagues in 2004 demonstrated that no difference in injury risk was found in groups that completed static stretching protocols versus those that did not


· 3) It has not been shown to decrease muscle soreness

o Herbert and colleagues meta-analysis in 2002 demonstrated that static stretching protocols before exercise did not result in decreased muscle soreness

§ I do believe there to be a place for static stretching at the end of a workout to improve flexibility and this will be discussed in a future podcast

· So if we are not going to use static stretching in this phase to increase mobility, how are we going to do it?

o Dynamic stretching and mobility drills

§ Involves purposely, and in a controlled manner moving through the required range of motion

§ Again, we are getting more and more specific, so these mobility drills are going to more closely mimic sporting/lifting activities that will be performed in the subsequent workout (SAID specific adaptations to imposed demands)

· Continues to work on neuromuscular control, while now also being more specific in working on ROM, and also continuing to hit the temperature and non-temperature related effects by better maintaining an elevated heart rate versus static stretching

· Also more time efficient because can work through ROM of multiple joints with one movement

· Dynamic stretching has been shown to increase performance in and of itself – specifically running performance in one study

o I like to start with unweighted mobility drills although the specific drills will depend on a multitude of factors:

§ Prior injuries or chronic aches and pains

· Important to improve ROM to prevent further injury


§ Specific exercises that are to be performed in the subsequent workout

§ Example: leg workout for someone who has a history of hip pain

· We are going to focus on mobility around the hip joint with mobility drills focusing on hip extension/hip flexion/hip abduction/hip adduction – straight leg raises, body weight full depth squats, single leg knee tucks

§ Example: push day workout for someone who has a history of shoulder pain

· Mobility of the shoulder joint in all planes of motion

· Use a pvc pipe to assist in moving shoulder throughout greater range of motion

· Performing a bench press motion with an exaggerated range of motion using a pvc pipe

o Resisted mobility drills that also improve strength in stabilizer muscles important for future injury prevention, not just for this session – again based on your specific injury/pain profile and profile of sport/activities you will be completing.

§ Rotator cuff exercises

§ Triceps kickbacks for those with triceps pain

§ Wrist curls for tennis or golfers elbow

§ Potentiate

· Very specific (SAID) and gradually more intense until we work up to intensity we are training at

o The higher intensity (ie the more max strength and power needed) the more important this phase is

· Because it is so specific it is hard to give general advice, and this is really where the individualized coaching comes in (as well as above with the mobility drills

· However, some examples of what I like to include here

o For lower body resistance training days including agility and speed drills to

§ Braking ability, cone drills, etc with increasing intensity

§ Speed training at 40-100m

· After we complete these drills, it is important to work up in weight for the major muscle group and motion that you will be using

o Example:

§ For chest day I typically program some version of bench press first. I will have clients start with push-ups, then the bar, then half their working weight, then the working weight

· This process needs to be modified when working at near maximal loads, but if working around 6 rep range and up it works

o Summary of RAMP:

§ Raise heart rate, respiratory rate, blood flow, with more general aerobic activity

§ Activate and Mobilize the full ROM more related to the specific movements that are going to be performed – by utilizing unweighted dynamic stretching and then with weighted dynamic stretching

§ Potentiate by working up in intensity and utilizing the specific movement that is going to be targeted in the workout

· Summary of warm-ups:

o Hopefully that convinces you to include this RAMP protocol to add a structured warm-up to all of your workouts

o Again, it is very individualized based on the workout you are doing, and this is where individualized coaching can help, but the main idea is that from the moment you walk in the gym, you should be training with a purpose – like an athlete – and athletes always have structured warm-ups. If you go through the framework we just talked about to try to create a structured warm-up for all your workouts you will have an amazing start in getting all the benefits of a warm-up including the performance benefits and likely injury prevention

3 views0 comments
bottom of page