The 4 R’s of an effective warmup

This article was written by one of The Food Medic team; personal trainer and fitness writer – Adam Willis

When it comes to maximising every training session you want to ensure your first step is a strong one, and the first thing you should be doing before any training session is performing an appropriate warm-up so that you’re both mentally and physically ready to progress into the main body of your training session.

A great warm-up transitions you from your pre-training state, taking you from just woken up, or work mode, or parent mode etc, into a readied training state where you’re prepared for the rigours of your training session.

For me, when it comes to an effective warm-up, there should be 4 key components, the 4 R’s:

Reset – your body

Raise – your heart rate, body temperature and blood flow to the working muscles

Regain – the required mobility and positions required for the upcoming session

Ramp – up your arousal and prime your nervous system

Let us take a look at each one of these 4 R’s in more detail.

#1 Reset

The purpose of the reset is to begin your transition from your pre-training state to your training state. 

A lot of people arrive at the gym to train in a sympathetic nervous system state [often due to coming from a stressful day at work] and by using a suitable reset they’re able to transition themselves back to a parasympathetic state, resetting the body to “neutral” and regaining, most importantly, the correct position for the diaphragm and pelvic floor to function correctly in before getting their training session started.

My Reset Go-To: 90/90 Breathing w/ Hip lift & Arm reach

#2 Raise 

This is the “R” that most people are familiar with when it comes to a warm-up. Here you’re wanting to raise your heart rate, blood flow to working muscles and body temperature.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to take the old school approach of hopping onto a piece of Cardiovascular equipment for 5-10 minutes to achieve this, nor is there a specific exercise or exercises required either. If your warm-up is structured correctly, building gradually through movement complexity, your heart rate, blood flow and body temperature will increase steadily throughout the duration of your warm-up.

#3 Regain

You may have been advised in the past to use your warm-up to work on your mobility, however, if increasing your mobility is a goal of yours, this should be given its own focus during your training week rather than eating up precious training time at the start of every training session. 

You want to use your warm-up to regain the mobility that you currently have access to [without excessive mobility drills] and regain the positions and range of motions that are required for the upcoming training session.

If your session calls for squats you need to work on the areas of your body that help you regain the required position, and range of motion to achieve the task of squatting. 

Sounds so obvious doesn’t it. 

This shouldn’t take you all day. 

An effective warm-up should take between 6-10 minutes.

If you’re someone who takes 30 minutes to prepare your body for squatting using countless mobility drills, I would say you’re either wasting time, or shouldn’t be squatting. 

Simply pick 2-3 key areas to work on and regain the mobility and positions that you need for the session.

Now, whilst the above will be somewhat individual based upon your needs there are some common areas that most people need to address to regain positions.

For Squatting; work on your hips and ankles. 

My go-to’s are:

For Deadlifting; work on your hips and back. 

My go-to’s are:

For Pressing; work on your thoracic spine and shoulder stabilisers. 

My go-to’s are:

#4 Ramp

The section is all about ramping up your nervous system, getting yourself optimally aroused and priming the body to transition straight into your first training section of the day.

During this section focus on appropriate dynamic type movements and exercises. I also like to include some core training in the ramp section as well, with the focus being on stimulating the core in preparation for following power and strength training to come in the session.

My go-to’s are:

When it comes to your warm-up you don’t need to overthink things, nor should it take all day to complete. 

Hit the 4 R’s using between 6-10 total exercise and aim for your warm-up to be completed within 6-10 minutes.

Use your warm-up to transition away from your pre-training state and prepare yourself mentally and physically for your coming training session by focusing and dialling in on yourself and your movement during these key 6-10 minutes. 

Remember, your warm-up is your first step towards maximising your training session. 

Be focused.

Be intentional.

Make it efficient and effective.

Make it a strong first step.

The 4 R’s of an effective warmup was last modified: July 1st, 2022 by Adam Willis

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