When Your Workout Becomes Your Warmup

Senior Army leaders participate in the combat fitness test.
Senior leaders of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade participated in the Army combat fitness test, Aug 14, 2018, on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (1st Lt. Verniccia Ford/101st Division Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

There is often a transition that takes place when you start training again -- eventually. What challenged you previously no longer will be tough on you, and it can be considered a warmup. 

This transition is relative. Some people will find a five- to 10-minute warmup just a warmup, while others will find it difficult to continue nonstop for 5-10 minutes doing any sort of activity. Here are a few workouts that people once considered a full workout, but after a few months of training, it only will be a warmup:

The PT Pyramid Warmup: As you can see in previous writings, the PT Pyramid is a classic way not only to get a warmup, max-out and cooldown built into a workout, it is also a great assessment tool. And yes, eventually the 1-10 pyramid will be a warmup in any exercise. If you do the following, it may be considered a warmup or a full workout that is impossible to complete (for some):

Run 25 meters (do dynamic stretches and build up to fast running later in the warmup)

1 push-up

Run 25 meters

2 push-ups

Run 25 meters

3 push-ups … Keep going until you get to level 10. That totals 55 push-ups. You can replace that with any exercise during which you are planning to do high reps or heavy weights.

For instance, a 1-10 pushup pyramid is a great warmup for a bench-press workout or a Max-Rep Set workout. When you first start training 1-10 push-ups (or any exercise), it can be considered a full workout -- especially if you cannot do multiple reps and sets of that exercise. 

Once your conditioning improves, you can continue this pyramid up to level 20. This equals 210 repetitions of any exercise. If doing push-ups or squats, that warmup quickly turns into your workout.

The following exercises you do after this section depends on your conditioning. Most people realize when they can do a 1-20 (210 reps) pyramid or a 1-10-1 (100 reps) pyramid as a warmup, you can build your conditioning to a level that not many people can accomplish -- especially with tougher exercises like pull-ups and dips.

Typical warmups for most workouts are 5-10 minutes of some form of cardio option (jog, bike, elliptical). Most people can do this event at an easy pace for that time, but if you are returning from illness, what used to be an easy warmup may be your workout as you make this transition. Do not overdo it at first. Don't try something that is too much, too soon or too fast. Build up progressively.

Some people of advanced fitness levels can warm up with tough 30- to 35-minute workouts, such as the Murph, and finish their workout session with other events, such as longer runs, swims or rucks. It really depends on the athlete's goals. 

If you are seeking to excel in advanced-level selection programs in the military, there is no 30-minute workout that is going to prepare you for a day of special-ops training. You have to get to a level where your warmup is most people’s warmup.  It is all relative.

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 start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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