Home Workout Warm-Up – Introduction
What is the best way to warm up for a workout at home?
A safe, effective workout starts with a thorough warm-up.
Warming up prepares your muscles, joints, nervous system, and mind for what you are about to do.
The more sedentary you are, and the harder you are about to train, the more important warming up becomes.
But how do you warm up for a workout at home?
Keep reading to find out!
Step One – The Pulse Raiser
The pulse raiser is the phase of the warm-up that increases your heart rate and body temperature.
In a commercial gym, this is when you hop on a treadmill or bike for five to ten minutes.
But how can you raise your heart rate if you work out at home?
Ultimately, any light to moderate cardiovascular activity will get the job done.
For example, you could:
- go for a brisk walk, or
- easy jog,
- do some jumping jacks,
- jump rope, or
- use a home workout machine, such as a rower or elliptical.
The thing to remember with the pulse raiser is that it should start easy and get progressively more challenging over several minutes.
This avoids shocking your cardiovascular system and makes for a much more comfortable transition from sedentarism to more intense physical activity.
For example, you could walk for 2-3 minutes, jog for 2-3 minutes, and then run for 2-3 minutes.
However, don’t turn your pulse raiser into a workout and tire yourself out prematurely.
Do no more than necessary to achieve your goal.
At the end, you should be warm, slightly out of breath, but feel far from fatigued.
Instead, you should feel energized and ready to go.
Step Two – Joint Mobility
There are approximately 360 joints in the human body, some of which are immovable, such as those in your skull, and others that are highly moveable, such as your knees and shoulders.
Others are semi-movable, like those in your spine.
The moveable joints are mostly synovial, which means they’re lubricated with an oil-like substance called synovial fluid.
This fluid is produced in response to movement.
Stage two of your warm-up is designed to increase synovial fluid production to lubricate and mobilize your joints.
This will increase your range of motion and nourish the articular cartilage within the joints, keeping them healthy.
Joint mobility exercises involve taking your joints through a series of gradually increasing movements.
- Shoulder rolls – bent arm circles – straight arm circles
- Shallow squats – half squats – deep squats
- Hip circles – gentle leg swings – higher leg swings
The trick is to use movements that:
- a) take your joints through their natural movement and
- b) replicate the exercises you are about to perform.
Movements should be smooth and never hurried.
Increase the range of motion as you feel your joints becoming more mobile.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time on joint mobility, and 15-20 reps focusing on your knees, hips, shoulders, and spine is usually sufficient.
Step Three – Dynamic Flexibility
Broadly speaking, there are two types of stretching – static and dynamic.
Static stretches involve holding a muscle in a lengthened position for 30-60 seconds.
While this is a great way to relax a muscle and improve your flexibility, it’s not the best way to warm up because it may reduce the amount of force you can produce.
In contrast, dynamic stretches involve moving in and out of a stretched position relatively quickly to increase flexibility without relaxation.
Dynamic flexibility exercises are often quite similar to joint mobility exercises.
Examples of dynamic flexibility exercises include:
- Forward leg swings
- Lateral lunges
- Standing pec flies
- Overhead arm reaches
- Waist twists
10-15 reps per major muscle should be sufficient, spending most of your time on the muscles you are about to train.
For example, there is no need for dynamic stretching of your upper body before a leg workout.
Step Four – Muscle Activation
Prolonged sitting and inactivity can inhibit your muscles and stop them from contracting correctly.
Simply put, the less you use your muscles, the sleepier they become.
Stage four of your warm-up routine is designed to wake your muscles up, which is called innervation or activation.
Activating your muscles will make your workout more effective, as you’ll be able to lift heavier weights or do more reps.
Example muscle activation exercises include:
- Band pull-aparts
- Plyo push-ups
- Squat jumps
- Side steps with a band around your knees
- Medicine ball or stability ball slam downs
You can also wake up your muscles with isometric exercises, where you push or pull against an immovable object.
The key to effectively activating your muscles is to contract them powerfully, but only for a short time.
This will excite them without fatiguing them.
5-10 reps should be sufficient.
Again, you only need to focus on the muscles you are about to train.
Step Five – Ramped/Rehearsal Sets
Up to this point, your warm-up has been very general.
However, now it’s time to get more specific with some ramped/rehearsal sets.
Firstly, rehearsal sets allow you to practice some of the exercises in your workouts.
It’s generally best to focus on the first couple of movements or those you find most difficult.
For example, if your program includes deadlifts and front squats, doing a couple of easy sets will allow you to dial in your technique before starting your workout.
However, if you are using heavy weights for your lifts, you will need to do some ramped sets to work up to your training loads.
Like rehearsal sets, these allow you to practice and perfect your technique.
However, ramped sets also get your muscles ready for lifting heavy weights.
For example, let’s say you are going to do sets of five deadlifts with 225 pounds or 100 kilos.
Instead of jumping straight into your main workout, you could do something like this, instead:
- 10 reps 45 pounds – empty barbell
- 8 reps 100 pounds
- 5 reps 135 pounds
- 3 reps 170 pounds
- 1 rep 200 pounds
- 5 reps 225 pounds – first work set
By the time you reach your first working set, you should feel very comfortable with the exercise, and the weight won’t be a big shock to your muscles, as it would have been if you’d jumped straight into lifting 225 pounds.
How to Warm Up for a Workout – FAQs
Do you have a question about warming up before working out at home?
No worries because we’ve got the answers!
#1. How long should my warm-up last?
Your warm-up will take as long as it takes.
We all have different requirements and must adjust our warm-ups based on several factors.
You’ll need to warm up for longer if you’re:
- Training after being sedentary, e.g., a desk job or first thing in the morning
- An older exerciser
- Going to train with heavy weights
- Engaging in very dynamic exercises, e.g., jumping, Olympic lifting, or sprints, or if you
- Have stiff joints or previous injuries or
- You feel cold
Your warm-up can be shorter if:
- You’re a young, healthy exerciser with no aches and pains
- Your workout is not particularly intense
- You will be training with light weights or simple exercises
- You’ve recently been active, e.g., you’ve just finished doing some chores
- It’s a warm day
- You already feel loose and mobile
In most cases, a warm-up should last no less than five minutes and take no longer than 15-20 minutes.
#2. Do I have to do all five steps in every warm-up?
You should adjust your warm-up based on your requirements and the workout you are about to perform.
For example, if it’s a warm day and you’ve already been physically active, you may not need a pulse raiser.
Similarly, suppose you are doing a simple bodyweight workout with each exercise performed for high reps.
In that case, you won’t need to do ramped or rehearsal sets.
You may also find that there is a crossover between dynamic stretches and joint mobility exercises.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to customize your warm-ups so they’re right for you.
However, you may need to use different warm-up methods on different days depending on the workout you have planned.
#3. I’m short of time – can I skip my warm-up?
You could, but we really don’t recommend it.
While skipping your warm-up will save you a few minutes, it could cost you months of lost training if you end up injured.
That’s not to say warming up guarantees that you won’t get hurt, but it does lower your risk of injury.
If you are so short of time that you can’t do a full warm-up, at least do a few ramped sets with mobility and flexibility exercises in between.
This will prepare your muscles and joints for what you are about to do and help ready your nervous system for heavier loads to follow.
#4. I’m cold at the start of my warm-up but too hot at the end. Any pointers?
This is a common problem but also one that’s easy to fix.
Start your warm-up wearing an outer layer over your training clothes, such as some jogging pants and a hoodie.
Do your warm-up, and then remove this outer layer once you feel ready.
If you are training in an unheated garage in winter, your warm-up clothes may include a hat and gloves, and you may keep your pants and hoodie on for longer or even wear them for your entire workout.
Wearing extra clothes will make your warm-up more effective but removing them means you won’t be too hot for your workout.
#5. I feel stronger after warming up. Why is this?
Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for what you are about to do, but it also affects your nervous system.
After warming up, your body is better at engaging your muscles.
It can innervate or turn on more groups of muscle fibers simultaneously.
This means you can generate more force, making you stronger.
Cold muscles are not as efficient and cannot produce as much force.
Ramped sets are especially useful for increasing your strength.
Warm Up for a Workout at Home – Wrapping Up
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of warming up.
Many people go through the motions and even rush their warm-ups with little thought as to how they’re affecting their muscles and joints.
Some exercisers don’t warm up at all.
However, a purposeful warm-up will make your workouts more effective and potentially safer.
This will help you reach your fitness goals faster.
So, no more skipping your warm-up or making do with a few jerky stretches.
Warm up properly to make your workouts as productive as possible.