Getting the most out of your warm up

Provided By: Australian Physiotherapy Assosiation

Most athletes have no doubt been told time and time again they need to warm up before exercise, but the finer details of how to warm up—for how long, what exercises to do and why it’s important—are less well known.

Why is it important to warm up?

A good warm up is an essential part of any exercise routine. When performed correctly, it helps to prevent injury and prepare the body for more strenuous work by gradually increasing heart rate and body temperature and promoting blood flow to key muscle groups. For many athletes, it’s also an important opportunity to mentally prepare for the activity ahead.

How long do I have to warm up for?

While any warm up is better than none (provided you’re doing it correctly), taking the time to go through a comprehensive warm-up is a good habit to keep. For a big training session, event or game, this could take 20 minutes or so, while a short gym class will likely include five minutes at the start to ease you into the workout. You should keep moving right up until the point you start your activity.

What type of exercises should I do?

An effective warm up prepares the body for more vigorous activity through a gradual increase in intensity (it shouldn’t cause you to fatigue). It should include exercises that mimic the sport or activity by using the same movements and muscles. These exercises should work to increase your temperature and heart rate, promote blood flow and activate key muscles and joints to increase performance and help prevent injury.

For example, for those playing sport, a pre-game warm up may include the following:

  • a light jog
  • dynamic exercises such as lunges with a twist, high knees, butt kicks, leg swings and side steps
  • short sprints, gradually increasing pace
  • sport-specific drills.

Should I stretch?

Static stretching, that is holding stretches for 20 seconds or so, is more beneficial after a workout, as it can lead to stretch-induced strength loss and can see you cool down if you’ve already warmed up. Instead, aim for dynamic stretches, such as walking lunges, leg swings and shoulder circles—keep it moving. Of course, if you’re doing an exercise that requires a lot of flexibility, such as dance or gymnastics, you’ll need to stretch beforehand.

What about injury prevention programs?

Injury prevention or neuromuscular training programs help to reduce injury risk by specifically targeting muscles, ligaments and tendons associated with a particular sport or activity—building strength and control in areas commonly prone to injury. They are designed to provide a complete warm-up before regular training and may incorporate bodyweight strengthening, plyometric or jumping exercises, core stability, agility drills and balance activities.

‘For any related injuries or injury preventative strategies, please contact your local physiotherapist or go to You can also follow the Australian Physiotherapy Association on Facebook (@AustralianPhysiotherapyAssociation), Twitter (@APAphysio) or Instagram (@physioaustralia).

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