Bootcamp 101: Warm Up

Today’s lesson on bootcamp and group fitness training is about the warm up. I’m going to provide insight to other trainers on how I prepare my clients, and to emphasize with everyone that the warm up is a crucial aspect of a fitness class, and not something that is separate.

Warm Up

Johnny’s Warm Up

My warm up is very specific in meeting three requirements:

  1. My warm up establishes terminology, queues, and pace of class.
  2. My warm up prepares a body for a workout by warming and stretching it through various ranges of motion.
  3. My warm up allows me to observe contraindications in movement, and affects how I teach each class.

Not only do I use the warm up of my group fitness classes for dynamic stretching, but the movements that I use in my warm up allow me to visually scan participants with an alignment assessment.

Establish the Pace of Class

The warm up that I deliver prior to my group fitness and bootcamp classes is always the same. I do this for a number of reasons:

  • I want class regulars to be familiar with the warm up, so that they can jump right into moving in class without the confusion of what is supposed to happen next. I like to set the pace of my class right away. If there are questions about what is supposed to happen next, things will come to a grinding halt before you even establish momentum for the class.
  • Sometimes there are late comers to class, or questions to deal with before you get started. A familiar warm up routine allows me to place the class on autopilot for a moment and attend to any loose ends without keeping the entire class waiting.
  • During the warm up,  you can familiarize your class with your queuing and terminology. Establish right, left, flexation, extension, adduction and abduction, whatever aspect is pertinent to the workout. It’s helpful to everyone to hear this terminology prior to exercise.
  • The movements are fundamental and allow me to recognize who might need modifications for other exercises in the workout.

Establishing the pace and focus of the workout is the instructor’s job, so establish this from the very beginning.

TIPYou can make your program accessible to more people if you’re quickly able to modify parts of your workout based upon the abilities that you see in the room.

Prepare the Body For Exercise

The warm up exercises should prepare the body for the work that it’s about to do. Aim to place emphasis on the muscle groups that are about to be used, focus minds to the here and now, and provide a starting point for the challenges that lie ahead in the program.

Jog In Place

Jogging in place gets the heart rate up, and warms up the body so that it can safely handle more intense movements and stretches.

While watching someone jog, I can witness how their feet land and notice if they might have abnormal functioning of their feet, knees, or hips. I also notice their posture, can make judgement about core strength, and recognize kyphotic or lordotic conditions of the spine that may require extra attention or instructions.

Forward Lunge

I like the forward lunge in my warm up because it stretches the typically tight hip flexor (psoas) muscle. The hip flexors are tight on both sedentary, and very active people. They also contribute to many common misalignments of the body. I like to think that good posture begins in the hips, so I give them a lot of attention.

When I watch clients lunge forward, I watch for bowing of the knees, or turning of the feet. If I see that, I know to be thorough in my instructing of proper squat form, as well as to consider where in the workout these contraindications might be problematic.

Backstroke with Hip Rotation

The backstroke allows me to scan the room for shoulder mobility issues. The hip rotation helps to loosen up the lower back and hips.

Commonly, I’ll witness pronation of the shoulders. This can prohibit a person from raising their arms straight overhead. This is not uncommon among office workers who sit at desks for long periods of time.

Think about ways to assist them in achieving more openness in the shoulders, and consider that individuals with pronated shoulders will tend to burden their lower backs in squatting exercises. Prepare to instruct thoroughly and provide modifications accordingly.

Revolved Alternating Lunge

Here I continue loosening up the lower back, and test for balance. Balance is a crucial component of fitness, as is coordination, and I train both of them often. I’ll cover that in another post of the Bootcamp 101 series.

Teaching someone about balance means that you’re training focus, and proper core engagement – two very fundamental things that can contribute enormously to client success.

Contract and Extend

Contract the body to engage and heat the core, extend to open the body and lengthen the spine. Those with poor posture will appear to have difficulty opening the chest and extending the spine. Those with tight hips will likely not be able to place their heels to the floor in the squat.

I like to queue breath here. Teach your clients to breath correctly, and how to consciously slow down or control their breathing. When you prime these queues in the warm up, it will be better understood in the workout when you notice someone holding their breath.

Hamstring Stretch

Hamstrings are notoriously tight and problematic! Make sure to give them a good stretch. You’ll probably have many different lengths of hamstring in your clients, so provide an exercise that is scalable to anyone.

In a group fitness setting, tight hamstrings will cause people to pick up and put down weights in a manner that could be dangerous to spinal health. They’ll disengage their core while leaning forward. You may decide to instruct pick up and put down techniques.


There you have it. You can see that my warm up is not a random list of exercises, but a well thought out part of a group class that prepares my clients for exercise, and provides me with information that is crucial to delivering a safe, and effective workout.

If there’s anything that you’re not clear on, or would do differently, let me know in the comments. I’m sure that others might have the same question, or appreciate the tip.

Also, try some of my online workouts. See first hand how my warm up works, and experience how it affects your movement and range of motion. 

JohnnyFit Online

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