Workout of the Week: Warm-Up, Upper Body, Cardio, Cool-Down Mix

People often ask me about ways to get in a good warm-up that will not take away their performance during the workout. Lifting heavy weights and progressing into that 1 rep max, fast pace running or swimming, or max reps on calisthenics all require some form of warming up prior to pushing max level effort. But are you giving up performance by warming up too much?

Personally, I like to make my warm-ups look similar to my workout but just in smaller, shorter, and easier doses. For instance, the workout we did this week had elements of the warm-up spread throughout the workout:

Overall Warm-up: When wanting to get the body warm and ready to add extra movements and faster paces, it is good to do some of whatever easy distance of the cardio option you prefer.

Run 1 mile or bike 10 minutes warm-up with a series of dynamic stretches as desired. I usually run a half mile, stop to do a few leg static and dynamic stretches as desired and start some upper body dynamic stretches as well as I prepare for the upper body warm-up phase.

Upper Body Warm-up: Prior to a higher repetition workout like the circuit below, a half pyramid is a great way to continue the warm-up into shorter and faster runs and increased reps.

Push-up Pyramid 1-10 (stop at 10): Run 25 meter runs mixing in dynamic stretches if needed or 25 jump rope or jumping jacks in between sets. This is 55 push-ups total, and if you prefer to mix in longer runs in between, you can run 100 meters in between push-up sets instead.

Personally, I find anything after 10 sets of the 1-10 pyramid becomes part of the workout and I am fully warmed up for the following workout. Depending on your fitness level, this could be the end of your push-up section or just a warm-up if you are more advanced and want to build up your volume to handle 200-300 reps in a workout.

Advanced Post Warmup option: If you continue going up to 20, you will see that the warm-up has turned into the workout. You will total 210 push-ups and 2,000 meters of running. If you prefer to do this versus the 1 mile warm-up or 10 min bike warm-up, that is an option that yields more reps but the similar total distances for the warm-up. If you can finish this in 15-20 minutes without missing reps, you have a good level of muscle stamina (strength and endurance) that will help you with two-minute push-up test in military PT tests.

However, depending on your fitness level, you might want to skip the 11-20 sets of the “warm-up” as you may not quite have the juice to do the next part of the workout. Death by Push Ups! It is not as bad as it sounds as it is really more like “death by plank pose”.

Death By Push-Ups: You stay in the up push-ups position or plank pose for 10 minutes when not doing a pyramid set of push-ups every minute on the minute (EMOM). Plank pose 10 min but do a set of a 10 -1 push-up pyramid every minute. Try not to go to your knees and build up to 5 minutes then 10 minutes of this static or dynamic combo.

Now, are you ready to work out? The good news is that you have done enough push-ups so the focus will be on other muscle groups or other planes of movement in the push directions. This is a .5 mile repeat challenge to strive to stay in your goal mile pace for timed runs. Typically, we try to stay in the 6-7 minute per mile time zone for the pace, so for the 800 meters that is 3:00-3:30 pace on each of the sets. Follow each run with a series of Pulling, Core (depending on your fitness test), Pushing and Isometric or static hold with a weight overhead (OH). Repeat this 3-4 times and build up to 5-6 times if striving for more advanced level fitness standards.

Repeat 3-6 times
Run 800 meters at goal mile pace
Pull-ups max
Knee-us or Sit-ups 1 min
Military Press 10-15
OH plate hold 1 min

The final section is going to mix the final push of the workout with the cooldown. Go hard if you have any juice left to see what your 10-minute run distance is, then spend the next 10 minutes with a slow jog or walk and stretching. Mix in a few dynamic stretches then finish with a few static stretches as desired.

Run 10 min hard for max distance

Then run 10 min easy mixing in static stretches every 2 minutes.

Final Cooldown Mixed with Mobility and Flexibility — You can do this later in the day or evening as the goal here is to go lightly. You can go so lightly that you will not break a sweat. Try a non-impact cardio option cooldown. We typically finish with a bike or swim workout for 15-20 minutes and add in a few more static stretches afterwards.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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