Time To Read

4.5 minutes

Points of Interest

  • Why warm up?
  • Stages of a warm up
  • Example warm up for training
  • Personalising your warm up


The warm up is commonly the most under-appreciated aspect of a workout.

Whilst a proper warm up may be a little more time-consuming, it will prime your body into a performance-ready state, reducing injury risk and increasing the effectiveness of the workout ahead.

This article outlines and evidences the importance of a full body warm up, every time you train.

Why a Full Body Warm Up is Important

When we consider exercise, it’s easy to think of it as being a muscle-only activity, after all it’s the muscles that force the articulation of joints.

This, however, neglects the involvement of;

  1. The nervous system - which brings about the contraction of muscles and the generation of force
  2. The ligaments - which stabilise the joints
  3. The tendons - which are placed under varying degrees of stress during movement.

A thorough warm up considers all of these points and addresses them individually, reducing the chances of injury and improving workout performance.

If your current warm up involves 5 minutes on the treadmill before you lift, read on – you’re about to learn a lot…

The Full Body Warm Up

A warm up has two main purposes…

  1. To prime the body for exercise, improve mobility and reduce injury risk.
  2. To practice movement patterns that are about to be exercised, recruiting neural and muscular pathways.


With these in mind, we have to think about how we accomplish all of these goals in an appropriate time frame and with a positive contribution to the outcome of the workout.


How do we prime the body for exercise?

The first stage is to perform a progressive, repetitive all-body movement that can be performed at a low intensity. For a general gym workout, a great option is a rowing machine – there’s no impact, the intensity can be gradually increased and all four limbs are used, including torso and trunk engagement.

Cardio raises heart rate, breathing rate, improves circulation and stimulates production of synovial fluid in the joints. It improves suppleness of the muscles and tendons thanks to the localised increase in blood flow.

This increased blood flow to the muscles and connective tissues helps relieve muscle stiffness, preparing the body for safe movement and load bearing exercises.

Once the body is ‘warm’, it’s on to the next stage of the warm up – practising movement patterns.

Once the body is ‘warm’, it’s on to the next stage of the warm up – practising movement patterns.

Full Body Warm Up: Movement Patterns

The warm up should be reflective of the work you are about to perform, so think in terms of movement patterns and load. If you are performing a heavy Olympic Weightlifting session, you’ll need to prep patterns such as a hip hinge, a squat, clean and overhead mobility.

Start with an exercise that ‘primes’ the movement. Arguably the best all-round movement for this is a kettlebell swing. It recruits many muscles, engages the muscles in a concentric and eccentric contraction pattern and helps to further raise the pulse.

It’s important to realise that we’re not doing this to improve performance in the workout, it’s purely to engage the relevant muscles and practice movement patterns, making the muscles warm and stretchy, to avoid injury and increase range safely.

Afterwards, it’s on to full practice movements with a light load. This is only done when the body is sufficiently warm and mobile. Without the temperature raising effect of the work prior to this, you risk being unable to achieve proper exercise positions and technique which increases injury risk.

Performing 5-10 reps of the movements you are about to do is important. Using weightlifting as the example I’d go through the following with an empty bar…


  • Snatch Grip Deadlifts
  • Snatch Pulls
  • Good Mornings
  • Push Press
  • Overhead Squats
  • Split Jerk


These exercises cover all the major movement patterns you’re going to be using during the session. Your body will be ready for exercise, your movement patterns will be practised, muscles and tendons will be warmed and supple.

Remember to adjust these exercises to suit the workout you’re about to do.

This is a short guide to the timings and sequencing of a good, thorough full-body warm up prior to exercise.

  • 3-5 minute low impact, low intensity, whole-body cardio work
  • 2-3 minute movement prep circuit, tailored to the workout. Think movement patterns and mobility
  • 2-3 minute whole body circuit – light load, a circuit that mimics the movements you’re about to use in training
  • Warm up sets

Working Set Warm Up

After the general warm up, I advise my clients to perform a series of progressively heavier warm up sets, building up to their working sets. In practice, it may look like this…

Working Sets Target: 4 x 3 Snatch @ 70kg

Warm Up Sets: 1 x 2 @ 40kg, 1 x 2 @ 50kg, 1 x 2 @ 60kg

Performing these means the client has already warmed up with progressively heavier weights, preparing them physically and mentally to deal with the load they’re about to lift.

Jumping straight from an empty bar warm up to the working weight risks injury.

I do this with every new exercise – start with a few light, progressively heavier sets leading up to the working weight.

Conclusion: Why a Full Body Warm Up Is Important

Exercise places demands on the whole-body, regardless of the exercise we do. In this article I’ve outlined some of the science behind warming up and have given an example of the sort of warm up you should be doing to improve performance in your workouts.

Where tradition dictates a 5-minute jog is a sufficient warm up, science proves that simply isn’t the case. If you’re serious about training, a multi-phase, multi-discipline warm up is key to health and performance improvements and ensuring injury prevention.

About the Author

Steve Hoyles is a personal trainer, nutrition adviser and founder of

Over to You

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