Fitness Articles

Reference Guide to Warming Up

An In-Depth Look at the Warm Up

How to Warm Up
When warming up, keep the FITT Principles (Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type) in mind.
  • Frequency: How often you should warm up
    A proper warm up should be done before any exercise session or physical activity, whether it is a cardio, strength training workout, or stretching.
  • Intensity: How intensely you should warm up
    A warm-up should start with exercises of low intensity and then progress to match the intensity of the main exercises of the workout. The greater the intensity of the workout, the longer its warm-up should be. Speed, strength, and difficult technical workouts should have longer warm-ups than aerobic fitness or endurance workouts. A general recommendation is to perform a warm-up that includes all the large muscle groups of the body.

    For an effective warm up, perform movements that increase your heart rate and breathing, and slightly increase the temperature of your muscle tissue. A good indication of this is when you have raised a light sweat. Your warm up should be nice and easy. If it makes you too tired, try doing less strenuous warm up exercises.
  • Time: How long your warm up should last
    Your warm up should last at least 5-10 minutes (or slightly longer in cold weather or before high-intensity exercise). Breathing will be harder than normal, but not as hard as during the actual exercise.
  • Type: What activities are suitable for warming up?
    See “Examples of Warm Up Activities” above. The warm up can be a lower intensity version of the workout you are about to do, or it can be a completely different exercise. As long as it increases your heart rate and breathing, and involves the muscles you are about to use, it is considered a proper warm up.
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great instructions. Thank you so much! Clarified some of the myths I had used for many years.! :) - 1/26/2015 8:03:22 PM
  • Thanks for the great article. The info was great. I was always told to stretch before exercising. - 1/9/2014 7:43:06 AM
  • wow!! I thought stretching was warming up. Glad I looked into it. And thanks for the very helpful info. - 1/11/2013 8:15:58 AM
  • Huh. The more you know. ^^; I thought I knew exactly what warming up should involve but turns out I wasn't quite right! Happy to learn this though, because maybe if I start doing it correctly I will see some improvements! (Will report back in a week to let you all know.) - 8/16/2012 11:25:58 AM
  • RHIA1067
    i thought stretching is part of a warmup... i was wrong...
    - 8/15/2012 6:51:25 AM
  • Yes, this is helpful, I always stretched, then ran. This explains why I couln't get a good rununtil my body warmed up during my run, but I would get tired early and hurt later! I jump rope 10 minutes then run, strength train, cool and stretch, and it felt much better! Great article! - 3/28/2011 8:26:35 AM
    GETINLINE - Right On! I love dancing as my favorite exercise. - 1/19/2010 9:22:15 AM
    My pup stretches just as she's getting out of her dog bed. So I think stretching and a few breaths would be good as a warm-up. - 1/19/2010 9:21:04 AM
  • ESCOBA8008
    THis article is very illustrative, but I would like to know to learn a couple of warm-up routines and I can't find any, at least on this site. - 11/16/2009 10:07:20 AM
    This is a very interesting article. I always thought that you should stretch before doing any type of exercise and that stretching was the same as warming up. - 10/29/2009 11:11:23 AM
  • Talk about going backwards!!! Thankx for this article.
    I was stretching BEFORE warm up.

    Sooo I guess dancing then walking instead of walking then dancing.
    Dancing then housework..I will try this. - 10/2/2009 7:56:04 AM
  • WAMEE4949
    Glad I read this article, I never thought warm up and stretching were completely different. Now I know I have to do both. - 8/26/2009 11:03:19 AM
    oh wow! i did not know this. well now i know. ha! - 8/9/2009 11:05:26 PM
  • Physically limited people needs to read this article. The warm up in physical Therapy is stretching...Ther
    e are other ways inwhich physically limited people can do as a warm-up. I will try this new approach to a warm up and see what happends. - 3/27/2009 8:52:40 AM
  • Very helpful article. Explains the importance of warming up. I needed to understand this. Now off to figure out what type(s) of warm-ups to do! - 3/13/2009 10:58:10 AM

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