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How to Warm Up Before a Workout — Stretching vs Cardio

by Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS, FMS2

Warming-up the wrong way before you workout could really screw up the workout. Keep reading to see exactly which warm-up is perfect for you.

I’m Coach Brian, strength coach here with criticalbench.com and I’m giving you a couple of different types of warm-up styles that you need to do before you work out. A lot of the time people just go right towards the cardio equipment and just spend five minutes of nothing but just going through movements in hopes it will prepare them for movement or the exercise. I’m not bashing cardio by any means. This is just one style of warm-ups that you can do to prepare your body for movement. This is not the best or the most impactful warm-up that you should do. It is efficient to getting the core temperature elevated, getting the heart rate elevated, but is it the best thing to do before you go do some heavy squats? Probably not. I’m going to give you three types of warm-ups that you should do, depending on the workout that you have planned for that day.

Obviously cardio is a nice little warm-up. Anything that you do on the cardio is good to elevate the heart rate, elevate the core temperature and just kind of wake-up your body a little bit. Five minutes, ten minutes tops is all you need. But the warm-up should be a gradual progression towards a higher intensity workout or warm-up, if you will. Once you get close to the five-minute mark you should be huffing and puffing, the body should be ready for movement and you really shouldn’t have to continue your warm-up. Again, cardio is great just for total body awareness and just waking up, but it’s also good if you’re a runner or participate in kind of more dynamic movements, things like athletic sports or athletic movements. It’s a great way to just get the body woken up.

What I personally recommend is dynamic warm-up. Dynamic movement is the second type of warming up. This is kind of more like calisthenics:  bodyweight movements going through dynamic ranges of motion. A lot of athletes do this to prepare their body for movement, high knees, things like this and butt kickers, jumping jakes, quick knee pulls, quick lunge, stuff like this, leg swings, all the stuff that’s done in an explosive manner.

Now, dynamic warm-ups can also be a little bit more challenging, especially for beginners and if you are a beginner you still can participate in dynamic warm-ups, you just go at a slower intensity. You’re not going to try to kick 100-yark field goal as your first go-around. You might just do some, I call them poop scrapes, like if you step in some dog poop, you’re just trying to scrape the bottom of your foot, stuff like that. Basic arm circles, this is another style of warm-up that you should be doing, depending on the movement that’s ahead in your workout. I still recommend a dynamic versus all the other ones, like your cardio and what we’re going to talk about next, which is more mobility work. The dynamic is proven, scientifically proven, to be one of the most, best and efficient ways to warm-up the body, preparing for movement.

So let’s say you’re not an athlete, but you’re a heavy bench presser, a heavy squatter. That’s when you start wanting to go into more mobility type of primal movements. So let’s say you want to get warmed up for the heavy squat or a deadlift or a heavy leg press, stuff like that. Yeah, it’s going to be good to get the heart rate up, the core temperature up on a cardio piece, but what you might want to do is kind of skip over the dynamic movement and go right towards mobility movement, waking up joints and hips and also the tendon apparatus within your muscles, stuff like deep squat pry, like where you’re really trying to open-up certain muscles. Because, when you start slowing things down, you’re not allowing the body to completely exhaust the strength reflex cycle. What that means is that, think of a sprinter… You don’t want a sprinter to be completely flexible and loose because all of that bound-up and stored energy within a muscle, it’s going to lose its potential the more stretched-out a muscle becomes. I’m not trying to stretch out and exhaust my body here. I’m just getting my body into certain positions that’s going to prepare me for the movements.

So if I’m going to squat today, I want to mimic the squat movement through different ranges of motion. These are dynamic movements, but at a much slower pace. These are functional mobility type of movements. Another great stretch is like the world’s greatest stretch (pictured above). Going through complex movements, opening up the body, preparing your body for movement, really opening up known muscles groups that are going to be worked in that particular movement. So let’s say you’re not doing anything on the lower body. You want to do some upper body stretches or upper body warm-up. You can still do spine twists, you can get some resistance bands and do some band work.

So out of these three, I would recommend all three of them. Now what I mean by that is spend a few minutes on the cardio piece, two to three minutes tops, get the heart rate elevated, get over to do some dynamic movement, three to five minutes of that, do some mobility work, three to five minutes of that. If you’re efficient in all three warm-ups, what’s that going to take? Ten minutes? I just did a couple stretches there and my heart rate is already elevated, my breathing is already elevated and I know for a fact that if you do all three warm-up styles, your workout or your game is going to be on fire. I guarantee that.

So if you’ve got a question about more specific types of warm-ups, check out our Youtube channel. First, subscribe to our channel, but then search within our channel warm-ups, foam rolling techniques, suspension strap training. There are so many videos that we’ve already created talking about certain types of warm-ups for certain types of movements.

If you’ve got a comment or question, post it down below. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for hanging out! See you next time.

-Coach Brian

Before you go, make sure to get your FREE report on
Why Stretching Won’t Make You Flexible
It’s a little deceiving in the title, but once you read the report you’ll totally understand what we’re talking about. Best of all, it’s free!

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