3. Make it exercise-specific.
“A pre-workout warmup should entail movements that closely resemble the actual workout,” Torres says. For example, “if the workout is leg-focused and will have plenty of squats, I wouldn’t have my client stretching their hamstrings or quads. The warmup would be squats. We would do them at either a lesser intensity or range of motion than the actual workout calls for.”
The reasoning behind this approach to warming up is that “doing the actual movement gets your joints warmed up and blood into your muscles. When doing this you’re already making your muscle and tissue pliable” with the specific movements you’ll be doing in the main part of the workout.
By the same token, Moran says that if you’re gearing up for cardio, aim to increase your breathing and heart rate slowly to prevent fatiguing too early in the exercise itself. Going from zero to 100 would be like leaping out of bed in the morning without sitting up, shaking off the grogginess and stretching first. “It’s preparing our body to go into a different phase of activity,” she says.
If you’re preparing for a weightlifting workout, on the other hand, it’s most important to practice your movements with no weights or light weights to test drive how your joints are working that day and practice your range of motion. In other words, you don’t want to learn you have a kink in your knee or your stance is unsteady when you have 100 pounds on your back. “If something hurts,” Moran says, “don’t do it until you consult your physical therapist.”
Team sports or other agility workouts, meanwhile, lend themselves to warmups like speed drills in order to activate your neuromuscular system and test out your quickness that day.
Before a cycling workout, for example, Winsberg likes to do “ladders” – first building up and then lowering the resistance, then speeding up and slowing down and finally increasing and decreasing both power and cadence. “I find it’s a really good indicator of fatigue,” she says. “If there’s not quickness there, it’s probably not a day to do a really tough workout.”