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Warm up to train or train to warm up?

In a competitive world where athletes are often time-limited; making the most of your time is crucial or where you are looking for small differences to make much needed improvements the warm up is a basic element which is often overlooked for an extra cup of coffee before the session, more intensity within the session or buying new kit. What should be considered is that a good quality warm up will easily help you get the most out of each and every session.

At Endurance Sports Coaching we encourage athletes and coaches to do the basics well, and making sure you warm up properly is one of these basics that is worth doing well. By including a thorough warm up in your session you can ensure your body is fully prepared to make the most of the harder work when it comes to it.

The fundamental aim of a warm up is to prepare your body to perform to the best of its ability during the session and there are three key considerations that a good warm up should take into account. These are:

  1. Raising the heart rate, mobilizing and stabilizing appropriate joints, activating and then potentiating major muscle groups.

  2. Making the warm up specific to the individual and to the session being carried out. This is particularly important for mobility and stability.

  3. Ensuring the warm up changes as the strengths and weaknesses of the athlete ebb and flow through the season; again this is mainly around mobility and stability of particular joints.

These considerations provide a wide range of possibilities for an ever evolving warm up. Using the tables below, the questions and options they contain it is possible to construct a good quality warm up and have options to keep it interesting and fun long into the future.

Putting together your warm up:

Most warm ups can be 10-15 minutes long however, if you have a little more time and you are feeling a little tight it’s never a bad thing to spend a bit more time on the mobility side of things. If you have the time then longer mobility sessions can be done separately. To build your warm up follow these steps

  1. Consider the movements you will require in the session you are about to do and which muscles are used to create these movements

  2. Mobility: Consider which muscles groups, from the ones you will use, are tight and need to loosened, add exercises for these muscle groups first

  3. Stability: Consider the movements you will require and therefore which muscles need to stabilise joints to help produce a stronger movement

  4. Potentiation: Consider which movements will produce the powerful actions and choose exercises that will fire these muscle groups into action.

An appropriate warm up might consist of five or six mobility exercises, three or four stability exercises and then a couple of potentiation exercises. If each exercise is 45’’ long with 15’’ recovery then this should total about 10-15 minutes for your warm up. Use the tables below to help put together your warm up.

Mobility exercises:

These raise your heart rate slightly and will gently raise your body temperature too. Any foam rolling can also be included here. These exercises can be split into complex mobility which use a number of muscles at the same time and specific mobility which focus on one muscle group at a time. Remember all exercises should be dynamic; constantly moving in and out of the stretch.

Table of complex mobility exercises

Table 1: Complex mobility exercises

Table of specific mobility exercises

Table 2: Specific mobility exercises

Stability and activation exercises:

These exercises, seen in Table 3: are designed to challenge the muscles around the joint to work harder but not fatigue therefore making sure they are ready to stabilise the joint as it moves through the range of movement required by the exercise.

Table of Stability and activation exercises

Table 3: Stability and activation exercises


These exercises can be see n Table 4 and create a powerful explosive movement to allow the muscles to co-ordinate together and prepare for the stronger actions to come.

Table of potentiation exercises

Table 4: Potentiation exercises

Completed properly, your warm up will allow you to start the session strongly from the start. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

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