How To Warm-up To Stay Injury Free

A great warm-up will maximize your results, improve your performance in the gym, and help you avoid injury!

Failing to properly warm-up can lead to injury which leads to time off at the gym and delaying your goals. Not only that but a serious injury could run up your medical bills and affect your everyday life. The last thing you want to do is end up with a serious injury.

Warming up properly can help you avoid injury as well as set you up for a great workout. This will lead to better performance in the gym and help you reach your goals faster, safer, and feeling better!

how to warm up

Why do injuries occur?

Injuries can occur from multiple reasons including fatigue, repetitive use, improper form, or overloading. Then there are injuries that occur from external forces, for example, getting hit by a car, falling or other accidents you cannot control.

We can avoid a lot of injuries by properly preparing the body for what it will be doing, executing exercises properly, and using a controllable load. The stronger you are the more resilient you will become to injuries.

What is the purpose of a warm-up?

When you first step foot in the gym, field, track, ice, or any place you will exercise your body is typically cold. If you are just getting out of bed or coming from work the body has been in a sedentary position for a prolonged period of time.

For different exercises, the range of motion needed can be great and not what your body typically does throughout the day. The warm-up gets the body prepared for whatever it will be performing to reduced risk of injury and improve performance.

Is there one warm-up that covers everything?

how to warm-up


Depending on your activity your warm-up will adjust. If you have a lower body workout planned you will not focus much on the upper body as you will not be using it. If you are going to play golf or run a 5K the warm-ups are completely different.

The warm-up should relate back to the activity.


How many types of warm-up are there?

Cardio, self-myofascial release, dynamic, static, activation, patterning, load acclimation, pattern acclimation.

Above list 7 different types of warming up for just one workout. There can be much more when going into sports and prepping for specific movements but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We just want to focus on the most important ones that keep us healthy and helps us get fit, toned and strong problem free.

How do I approach warm-up with my clients?

We start with 5 minutes on the treadmill at a speed of 3 to 3.5 MPH at an incline of 10. This gets the body temperature up as well as gets them in a standing position as many of my clients have sedentary jobs or are sedentary throughout most of the day.

We then foam roll only the muscles that need it. If their calves are tight from wearing heels for the majority of the day we foam roll the calves, peroneals, and anterior tibialis.

Then go through a dynamic warm-up for the muscles we will be utilizing. For lower body it might be knee to chest, heel to butt, toy soldiers, walking lunges with an overhead reach, and a dynamic calf stretch to loosen up the body for the movements it will perform.

how to warm-up

After the dynamic warm-up, we will perform some muscle activations. If they sit for the majority of the day and have overactive hip flexors and underactive glutes we might perform bodyweight glute bridges, glute marches, and band walks to get them firing. This can bring attention to the muscle from a mental perspective and can be better called upon when needed.

When you can flex and relax a muscle independently you have good control over it. Try contracting and relaxing each muscle in order: Calf, quad, hamstring, right glute, left glute, right lat, left lat.

Were any of those challenging to control and contract? This could be due to a lack of a neurological connection between the brain and that muscle. When you don’t use a muscle the body will forget how to use it. Hence the term muscle memory.

After the muscle activations we want prior to our first exercise, we’ll proceed to perform the first exercise with either bodyweight or a very minimal weight. For squats, it will be body weight. Then we will proceed to do small incremental increases with each warm-up set. If the goal is for the client to squat 185 for 3 sets of 5 the warm-up would look like what follows:

how to warm up
  • Body weight X 12

  • 45x12

  • 95x6

  • 115x3

  • 135x3

  • 175x1

  • 185x3x5 (Working Sets)

This progression allows for the CNS to get used to the heavy load that will be added to the body with not getting fatigued. If you do too many reps per set when warm-up you jeopardize your performance from being too fatigued. For example:

  • BW x 12

  • 45x12

  • 65x12

  • 95x12

  • 115x12

  • 135x12

  • 155x12

  • 165x10

By this point, you will be too fatigued to reap the benefits from what your original workout was intending to give you.

After the first exercise which is a bilateral exercise we follow it with a unilateral exercise, we’ll perform only one set with just body weight to prep the CNS to the dynamic movement.

If you’re not ready for the first step of a walking lunge it’s better to stumble or lose balance with no load than over 90 pounds on your shoulders.

As the workout progresses the body is now warm and ready for the following exercises.

Below are samples of each part of the warm-up that can give you an idea of what yours should look like. You can pick and choose the ones you want. These are some of the same I prescribe for my clients based on their goals and needs.

Foam Rolling:

Dynamic Warm-up:


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Jamari Jackson