Matt’s Guide To Warming Up

By Matt  Hammond

Hi everyone I’m Matt, an Activator for Active Students. I study BSc Hons Sports studies and I’m in my third year. Being a sports student means I love sports and physical activity, coaching in particular is a passionate topic of mine. I’m also an athlete/fighter so I have been training in combat sessions and the gym consistently for many years.

Today I’m going to talk about Warming Up before exercise. So you have come to the University and have made a great decision to start exercise or signing up to the gym. Good for you! This will definitely benefit your health and fitness. However what I often observe with many people, particularly in the gym is they never warm up. Warming up is a very important part of exercising. To me, not warming up is like walking to the car without your keys.

So why is the warm up so important? A warm up is designed to;

  • Increase the Heart rate
  • Activate the cardiovascular system (Blood flow to the muscles)
  • Lubricate the joints, increasing your range of motion
  • Helps to prevent injury
  • Prepares you mentally for exercise
  • Warms up the muscles and builds the elasticity of the muscles

You wouldn’t eat chicken Raw would you? So use this same principle when warming up before exercise.

Here are my Do’s and Don’ts of Warm ups


  • Static stretch (Pulling a muscle tight and holding it) – This relaxes the muscles and reduces muscle power, this should be done post workout instead. It also increases the chance of injury as you are pulling a cold muscle.
  • Over exert yourself – A warm up should create a sweat on your brow without you feeling tired. About 50-60% of your maximal effort is enough.
  • Repeat the same warm up over and over again – You may get bored so mix them up or have a few routines you can choose from.


  • Dynamic stretching/movements – Imagine your muscles are like rubber tyres, the more you move and spin the tyres the warmer they get, your muscles are kind of like rubber strands in a way.
  • Warm up your whole body – Even if you’re only working on legs for example, still warm up the rest of your body. Many exercises used secondary muscle groups.
  • Make sure it actually warms you up – I like to begin my main exercises with a bit of a sweat on my brow, feeling loose warm and strong.
  • Make it a habit – It will improve your performance doing the main exercises and it only takes 5-10 minutes.
  • Enjoy it – It’s no good doing a warm up routine that you dislike so choose warm up exercises that you like, so you’re mentally prepared to hit the main course.

Here are some typical warm up exercise I like to do in the gym:

I hope these exercises give you a few Ideas. Be playful with your warm ups and mix and match these different exercises making sure to target all the muscle groups (upper, lower and core). I have made a little description by each one, however a quick Youtube search will allow you to physically see it being performed. There are plenty more warm up exercises but these are the ones I commonly use. Happy warming up!

Exercise Index

Agility Ladder – (This is one of my favourites) Spread out the agility ladder and perform various exercises stepping in and out of the ladder. E.g Shuffling, high knees, step in/outs, Grapevines, etc.

Ankle flicks – Also known as butt kicks, basically kick your feet back as if you are trying to kick your own butt.

Back rolls – Lie on your back on a mat, keeping your shoulders/neck on the mat bring your legs all the way over yourself so your lower body rolls over to touch the floor above your head. Alternate sides.

Body weight Squats – Squat down so that your legs are bent less than 90 degrees, keep your head up, back straight and glutes engaged. You can swing your arms up as you squat or cross your arms touching your opposite shoulders.

Cross trainer – Moderately perform exercise on the cross trainer for about 5 minutes

Dynamic Joint rotations – Rotating part of the body at the joint to loosen up, warm up the joint and build muscle elasticity.  E.g Arm swings, Open/close gates (Thighs), Upper body twists

Dynamic joint rotations using wooden pole or a light barbell – The same as normal joint rotations except they are done differently whilst holding a very wide grip with a long wooden pole or a barbell.

Grapevines – This can be tricky for some. Alternatively cross one leg over the other whilst moving sideways. Swing your arms and core into it also.

High Knees – Lift your legs up alternatively bringing each knee as high and close to the chest/abdomen as possible.

Plank – Hold a plank position for a minute or more. Contract your abs and make sure to lift up your hips so that they are level with your shoulders.

Plank with Shoulder tap – (Another of my favourites) Adopt the plank position again except this time bring your elbows alternatively off the floor and tap the opposite shoulder with the hand. This adds a little bit of rotational activation to your core.

Push Ups – Place your hands level with your chest on the floor, shoulder width apart and adopt a plank position with the rest of your body. Extend your arms and return to complete a push up.

Rowing – Jump on the rowing machine for 5 minutes, this uses several muscle groups and it one of my favourite warm up exercises.

Side stepping – With a stance wider than shoulder width, side step between two markers 2-3 metres apart, touching each marker. Keep knees slightly bent and take short strides without crossing your legs over.

Skipping (Jump rope) – This is a great warm up exercise, simply swing the role and jump/step over it for about 5 minutes.

Star Jumps – Jump and spread your arms and legs out wide to land, then reverse the action in the next jump.

Treadmill – Jog on the treadmill for 5 minutes. I also like to add an incline for extra pushing from my legs.

So there you go, that is my guide to warming up.  If you want to share your warming up tips with us tweet us @ActiveStudents