Warm-Up – Is It Really Worth It?

Warming up has been something that has been up for debate for quite some time. I’m pretty sure Bruce Lee was always altering his methods for warming up, and even further back we can look at how martial artists warmed up, and if there are is any written history, I’d love to see how gladiators, warriors, etc warmed up.

Bruce Lee - Warmup

Perhaps the reasoning for this is due to the immense amount of “creativity” that individuals within the industry can impose upon their idea of a warm-up in preparation. There is, like everything we do, almost no standardization for what is right or wrong.

However, respecting the actual anatomy and physiology, along with respecting what an individual believes (which speaks to the psychological aspects, self-beliefs, etc), can lead us to a more correct identity of what plans of action to take.

(Side Note: I mention what an individual believes, because sometimes a coach or trainer believes some players need to get “lower”, when in fact getting “lower” will compromise the acetabular-femoral joint going into hip flexion. Further, after identifying the anatomy of an individual, perhaps some persuasion will allow you – the more informed individual – to create a better plan of action, thus “the more correct” version displayed above.)

Hip Pelvis

My Own Experiments Warming Up

My own personal background with “warming up” has consisted of anything and everything. I’ve done the following versions in my own warm-ups:

Version 1

  • Foam Rolling
  • Positional Breathing Drills/Resets
  • Dynamic Warm-Up (various movement drills, crawling, skips, lunges, etc)
  • Movement Rehearsal (with empty barbell for example before benching/squatting/deadlifting)

Version 2

  • Foam Rolling
  • Positional Breathing Drills/Resets

Version 3

  • Positional Breathing Drills

Version 4

  • Dynamic Warm-Up
  • Movement Rehearsal

Version 5

  • Movement Rehearsal (with empty barbell)

These are all methods employed for many various reasons: lack of time, excess of time, priority of a training session (to place myself in a better psychological position),

Further, I’ve explicitly done these items for weeks, sometimes months at a time, just to prove a point – that if I truly believe in something, I also have to see a thought process that I believe is incorrect or wrong, and see how I fare. I learned a few things.

For those that are rigidly sticking to your foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and bands, I encourage and challenge you to step away from what the “industry” has imposed as a necessity, and discover what is truly important for yourself.

Let me say this first:

  • I’ve had great training sessions without any foam rolling.
  • I’ve had great training sessions without doing any quadruped extension rotations, or glute bridges, or dead bugs.
  • I’ve had great training sessions with only open loop drills such as skipping, 15 yard sprints, cariocas, marches, etc.

And on the other end:

  • I’ve also had time crunched training sessions where I’ve had to omit a full on 20 minute foam rolling session, and just do 30 seconds of foam rolling.
  • I’ve had sub-par training session where I’ve only done movement drills, and dynamic warm-ups.
  • I’ve had bad training sessions where I’ve even included foam rolling, movement drills, dynamic warm-ups, etc.

So is it safe to align myself with the thought that you absolutely need to prelude a training session with one of the “Version 1” warm-ups listed above in order to elicit an appropriate physiological training effect?

Again, I’d argue that this point is not as necessary, as I’ve seen great training sessions performed with as little movement preparation other than taking an empty barbell, and furthering the physiological quality of strength (with respect to powerlifting, for example).

For what it is worth, I have to bring into question…

What is the purpose of the warm-up?


1. It can be introduced as a marketing effort to distinguish from services and other businesses.

This is not a bad thing. Many may associate marketing with a negative connotation, and I’m here to say that I’ve seen and heard of bad training methodologies with an amazing marketing team.

I’ve seen amazing training methodologies with zero to little marketing strategies employed, and the featuring a different warm-up is simply another way to distinguish between competitors.

It simply is what it is.

Opening Windows of Adaptation

2. Introduce a window of physiological opportunity to help introduce further physiological training effects.

Now this is where I get excited. I’ve used various technologies, both real pieces of tech (OmegaWave, HRV tech) and cheap tech (tracking heart rate with first two digits on the side of the wrist, plus sleep tracking, plus checking grip strength).

The purpose of these technology items is to track physiological readiness (Am I ready to train a specific quality today?). Now, the warm-up can alter, change, or perhaps if done incorrectly, degrade those qualities of readiness.

Would someone like Allen Iverson do better or worse without doing foam rolling, hip flexor stretches, etc.? Or does he just want to go and practice?

The 4 Components of a Warm-Up

Separating myself from the marketing aspect of how a warm-up can vary from trainer to trainer, and philosophy to philosophy, I believe that there are real physiological qualities that can be enhanced, ignored, or maintained as far as a warm-up is involved.

This leads to the next question of, “what are the components of a warm-up?”

One of my mentors from afar, Charlie Weingroff, succinctly put these items into separate categories, and I believe even he mentioned he had borrowed these themes from Mark Verstegen. And I decided to make an awesome image of these in a more digestible format, based off of what he had discussed in this article: Warm-Up and Motor Concepts


Increase Tissue Temperature

There is so much benefit towards improving both the superficial and deep core temperature. Likewise, there is a lot of literature towards identification of how tissue temperature can influence O2 consumption, expenditure, nervous system conduction, blood flow dilation towards the working muscle groups.

Read: Warm-Up: Potential Mechanisms and the Effects of Passive Warm-Up on Exercise Performance

Priming Active Mobility

This is one concept that will need a better requisite of contemporary literature, namely identification of regional interdependence, the concept of passive versus active mobility, along with understanding a scope of practice that many trainers may not adhere towards when providing neurological changes to clients and athletes.


I still believe in the Joint by Joint Approach (JBJA).

Many of my colleagues may feel as if they have moved on for whatever reason. I’d like to argue that while the JBJA may seem like a black and white approach (for a lack of better phrasing), it is in fact simply a guideline that will allow better clinical decisions to be made. In fact, the JBJA still adheres to the qualitative effects of end feel, neurological tone, regional interdependence, and how gait works.

If the ankle does not dorsiflex as you push off, you will get a collapse of the medial arch and overpronation may occur. This speaks to a possible limitation at the talocrural joint, neurological tone that may prevent movement from the ankle-on-up towards the hip, and can even limit trunk rotation.

3 Way Ankle Mobility
Prepare your joints at multiple angles!

If you do have appropriate ankle dorsiflexion in a passive versus active manner, but you cannot control your given range of motion in an active manner, then you will need to do something in order to provide a motoric strategy that displays a greater control over that range of motion.

Total Hip ROM

If my active hip range of motion is [x], and my passive range of motion is greater than [x], well then I may have a lack of ability to control this range of motion.

Seek a method that will activate, and thus prime, your mobility.

Prep Central Nervous System

This is the portion of a warm-up that can be identified with these pieces of equipment/methods:

  • [Low-Level] Plyometrics (Skips, Marches, Hops, Bounds)
  • Medicine Ball Circuits
  • Kettlebell Circuits (Swings, Snatches, High Pulls)
  • Technical Work with Olympic Lifting
  • Jump Rope
  • Open Loop Drills (Reaction Drills)
  • Plyometric Push Ups

Action Plan

Do these if you are attempting to improve upon force production within your training session.

On that train of thought, you can improve upon this thought by categorizing these items into upper and lower CNS prep.

Lower Body CNS Prep

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Jump Rope
  • Open Loop Drills (Reaction Drills)
  • Olympic Lifts (Squat Cleans, Hang Cleans, Snatches)

Upper Body CNS Prep

  • Olympic Lifts (Snatches, High Pulls)
  • Medicine Ball Circuits (Stomps, Slams, Scoops, Shotputs)
  • Plyometric Push Ups
  • Empty Barbell Throws (Smith Machine)

If you want to move weight, move it fast. So, simply, train fast.

[Specific] Movement Rehearsal


Rehearsal of specific movements is something that has been within my wheelhouse for years on end. When you’re getting ready to dance, you simply just start dancing (toprocking), or grooving to get your body warm.

If you identify with numbers 1 through 3, but don’t practice this last bulletpoint, well then I have to ask, “what you are doing?”

If you go straight to movement rehearsal, are you performing your warm-up incorrectly? I’d have to argue no, because you are still improving blood flow by performing low level movements, but may miss the boat when it comes to CNS activation, or priming the active mobility of a given joint.

Action Plan

If you have time, perform 1 through 3 in order to open certain windows of adaptation towards whatever physiological effect you are attempting to improve upon.

Rehearsing specific movements is important because, well, you need to do those prescribed movements later on at a higher velocity, intensity, or with more precision (technically speaking) in order to elicit whatever physiological goals you are attempting to maintain/improve upon.

Warming Up Prior to Competitions

Let’s go back 10, maybe even just 5 years ago.

Let’s visit a powerlifting meet.

  1. Do people have foam rollers? Only a few.
  2. Are people performing stretches and mobility drills? Only a few.
  3. Are people wearing hoodies, sweats, etc in order to “stay warm?” Many, so yes.
  4. Are people getting under an empty barbell for reps? Yes.

Okay, let’s visit a powerlifting meet nowadays.

  1. Do people have foam rollers? Almost everyone.
  2. Are people performing stretches and mobility drills? Almost everyone.
  3. Are people wearing hoodies, sweats, etc in order to “stay warm?” Many, so yes.
  4. Are people getting under an empty barbell for reps? Yes.

The reasoning for these items being introduced to powerlifting meets now involves understanding further education, the advent of information being introduced within the internet, and simply smart training.

However, let’s visit something I’m more familiar with, such as a [bboy] jam.

  1. Do people have foam rollers? Rarely.
  2. Are people performing stretches and mobility drills? Yes.
  3. Are people wearing hoodies, sweats, etc in order to “stay warm?” Many, so yes.
  4. Are people dancing? Yes. 

This is not to point out that foam rollers are necessary.

Rather, sometimes the acute preparation that the mentality of bringing a foam roller with you may be an erroneous decision in the presence of mentally preparing to compete.

If a tight muscle group is presenting difficulty, it should have been taken care of prior to competition, for example. Dependence on a foam roller means something else in the training process needs to be addressed.

Does this also point out a lack of education on what an appropriate warm-up can elicit to help open up various windows of movement qualities? As my Minnesota-minded interns at CSP would say, “you betcha.”

So… What Have You Learned So Far?

These are thoughts that have been in my head, but better worded through various linguistics and technical language that Charlie has allowed for me to explain.

I’ve always been a fan of performing mobility drills, and then quickly jumping into a specific movement (such as toprocking, and practicing footwork to help amp up the nervous system and increase blood flow).

The introduction of foam rolling allows some windows to be opened up, but only if this lack of mobility was not even critical mass to begin with, as I believe foam rolling is simply one other way to improve upon a neurological awareness of whether a given musculature is tight or not.

In fact, I’ve personally been introducing open loop drills such as throwing a tennis ball and reactively catching with both hands (left hand is a little more difficult), sprinting drills, and medicine ball circuits without foam rolling or movement preparation drills and I’m not noticing any difference in my movement quality.

You can always do whatever you want to do.

I’m simply looking for the most efficacious method towards achieving a goal.

As always,

Keep it funky.


Bodybuilding for Dancers

Should dancers utilize bodybuilding protocols to help with their dance?

Here is my answer:

No!No! Dancers should not be performing bodybuilding

routines to get better at dancing.

Black and white statements aside, it is interesting to see and interact with many dancers across many different genres. I’ve associated with classical, modern, jazz, and of course my own respective art, breakdancing, and I’ve asked many questions on how specific individuals go about their own training (outside of sessioning or practicing for their dance). The answers I’ve received range from big movements – squatting, deadlifting, pull-ups – to smaller, more isolated lifts that focus on specific body parts.

While I can appreciate both responses, I have to question if they are even utilizing correct technique when it comes to these movements. Sometimes, I hear about dancers getting hurt in the gym due to inadequate technique- which is the most far-removed place I would like for any dancer to get hurt if they aren’t dancing.

Push-Up E2D

Clearly not all bodybuilding routines are the same. Ideally, each “routine” would be specific to the individual. However, principles of increasing hypertrophy, reducing adipose tissue (fat), and slowly tapering your training to a lean physique by a specific competition date is DRASTICALLY different than the needs for bboying.

So why pursue these bodybuilding and aesthetic minded goals for dancing?

Benefits for Bodybuilding Routines

To not completely throw the bodybuilding routine idea out the window, there are some benefits drawn from the thought process of simply lifting for lifting’s sake:

  1. Restore blood flow to hypoxic muscle groups, which aids in recovery.
  2. Improve general strength and muscular size (hypertrophy) to major muscle groups.
  3. Depending on movements utilized, there can be cross training benefits for coordination and learning various movements.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m not merely interested in general “gains” specific to bodybuilding for dancers. I’m interested in what is optimal, along with a specific transfer to dancing.

Optimal Training

What are the standards I’m looking to set for optimal training with respect to dancing?

  1. Total Body Movement Patterns
  2. Develops rate of force development
  3. Transfer to task (dancing in this case)

Total Body Movement Patterns

For the past 3-4 years, I’ve been diving down this route of traditional lifting. I’ve engulfed myself in this world of lifting, and strength and conditioning, and I’ve even competed in powerlifting. I wanted to see what it meant to lift weights, and what kinds of useful things I can extricate for dancers everywhere.

With this in mind, I’m all about minimalism when it comes to lifting. Strength sports, powerlifting, and simply getting stronger all preach the basics, and making sure you do the basics very well, in order to get brutally strong.

Deadlift - Miguel 455

If you’re a dancer, no one rants and raves about their 60lb DB curls, or about how much they can barbell shrug, or how many times you can do a kipping pull up for that matter.

If the exercise isn’t transferring to the end goal of you getting better at dancing, I have to question its efficacy in your philosophy and program.

I’m looking to improve these general movements:

  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Hinge
  4. Squat
  5. Single Leg Variations
  6. Anti-Movements (Anti-Rotation, Extension, Flexion)

Why these movements? Well, I’ve also come under the influence that by utilizing these generalized movements in an exercise program, alternating loads and intensities, I will be able to have a greater influence on how the body can transfer towards a specific activity – in this case dancing.

While I can write another 2000 words about how general movement patterns can influence specific movements, I’ll just refer you to another article that I wrote on the subject matter HERE.

As you know, and even if you didn’t, the art of breakdancing has large implications for stabilization, large ranges of motion necessary for extreme movements (such as splits, airchairs, hollowbacks, etc), along with the ability to resist any unwanted movements, during powermoves at the very least. Without training a foundation, you may be leaving a large chunk of speed and power away from your dance, along with chances for other muscle groups to possible take the role of other stabilizers and movers.

Developing Rate of Force Development

Whenever I coach the above basic movement patterns for a beginner level athlete, I want to ensure I’m setting them up for the most success from a position point of view. This is where external cuing such as “Chest up!” and “Sit back!” will help to reinforce a specific mechanical position during any given exercise.

However, after the requisite technical positions are understood, then I will encourage that specific athlete to increase the speed with which they are moving. This is helpful, because once they can replicate the position over and over, it will help to increase neuromuscular contraction, increase power qualities for performance, along with increase total nervous system excitability.

Also, rate of force development is important, because it will differentiate whether or not you can “put” more force into the ground, in order to stand up with more weight in your hand, or jump to higher values.

This is especially important, because it is often the faster, more explosive athlete that will be able to out-hustle, and leave their opponents in the physical and metaphorical dust.

To transfer this discussion to dancing, if a dancer is slow with their movements, I have to question this dancer’s exercise program and specific technical skillset.

For more information on rate of force development, read this article by Kevin Neeld.

Further Reading

Transfer to Task

Specificity should be prioritized when it comes to technical movements such as those found in breakdancing. If your movement is not enhanced by that specific external exercise, I have to question its necessity in an exercise program.

You won’t get better at windmills by doing bicep curls. I have a lot of friends that do bicep curls, and they can’t dance for the life of them.

Funny enough, it is the combination of both movement patterns (point number one) along with rate of force development (point number two) that will help to determine if an exercise has transfer to a specific task.

Tweet: Utilize large motoric, movement patterns. Move with intent. Rest, eat, and repeat.

There are a few other variables of course, but for now this is all I’ll discuss.

Further Reading

What to Do Instead of Bodybuilding

Instead of doing body part splits, and isolated movement patterns, utilize large movement patterns, such as push-ups, squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull-ups/chin-ups, and rowing patterns, with a high enough frequency (times done per week) for not so many repetitions (nothing above 10, as technique may begin to slide away), but maintaining the integrity of the movement. I’m not looking to absolutely destroy your technique during the initial phases of a program – rather slow, graded exposure to appropriate movement patterns are crucial to improving.

Also, include anti-movement exercises, such as planks, side planks, stability ball planks, rollouts, chops and lifts.

Tweet: Aim for improving technique first, before adding external load. After standards are met aim to increase the speed with which you are moving.

A sample day for the beginning of a program for dancers:

Day 1

A1. DB Goblet Squat – 3×6
A2. Feet Elevated Push-Up – 3×10 (2 sec pause at bottom of movement)

B1. Kettlebell Deadlift – 3×10 (Shoes off)
B2. Side Plank – 3x15sec/side

C1. DB Goblet Reverse Lunge – 3×6/side
C2. Half Kneeling 1-Arm Cable Row – 3×10/side

With this day, you have squatting patterns, pushing patterns, anti-rotation and extension with the side plank, single leg movements with the lunge, and rowing movements with the cable row at the end.

I can make extrapolations for maintaining a single leg movement pattern for any dancer (as they toprock or do footwork, for example). Even for a squat or hip hinge, performing flipping variations will involve a rapid stretch of the soft tissue that is involved with explosive hips, along with allowing for the abdominal muscles to fire appropriately during any powermove or freeze transition.

If these qualities aren’t trained at the very least, what kind of training are you doing to help your dance?

While this isn’t the whole picture of what optimal looks like by any means, this is just one more step towards improving your dancing!

As always,

Keep it funky.


5 Thoughts on Conditioning for Dancers

Aerobic conditioning often brings about a knee-jerk reaction to thought processes of running long slow distances.

The fitness industry has gone back, forth, and back again as to why “long slow distance (LSD) running” is bad for you.

I’ve even written an article as to why running is “bad” for bboys. Looking at only mechanics of running versus three dimensional movement is a bit short-sighted of me, and I apologize for the lack of applied information.

However, aerobic fitness as a concept is important.

  • As a concept, aerobic fitness will help to improve nervous system functioning.
  • It will also help to improve cardiac functioning (improvements and increases in aerobic enzymes and left ventricle of the heart).
  • Lactate threshold levels are realized sooner if the body’s metabolism is not functioning from an aerobically optimized system.

When learning and adapting newer information, I have one main thought in my head:

Will this benefit dancers?

And the answer to this question of whether or not aerobic fitness will help is yes – aerobic fitness is extremely important for dancers.

By improving your aerobic conditioning, and improving on the body’s exchange of oxygen, you can exhibit less fatigue, last longer throughout battles, and even more extrapolated, you can improve your ability to learn new combinations and movements by the simple notion that if you are fatigued, you won’t be able to practice as intensely or for as long.


Photo Credit: RobertsonTrainingSystems.com

To take a step outside of the context of strictly just breakdancing, aerobic fitness is important for dancers of all types as well.

How? I’m so glad you asked.

Improving aerobic fitness can improve recovery.

Allow me to put this in a more realistic context. Imagine you are traveling from city to city, or you are performing night after night with no days off between rehearsals and performances.

Stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system is helpful for rest and digest mechanisms.

Increasing and improving cardiac parameters related to a more optimized aerobic system will allow more blood to flow with less cost to the system as a whole – more transactions with less cost.

This is opposed to enhancing your anaerobic, or more specifically the alactic/lactic energy systems, where there is only a finite amount of energy stores that will cost a lot more in terms of energy for the body to utilize.

How can I improve my aerobic fitness?

Money question there, young buck.

However, this is both a little more complicated than just running for hours every day. Sometimes it is as simple as reducing the amount of conditioning you are currently doing. The name of the game when it comes to dishing out advice online is that it depends, because everyone is different and will respond differently to exercise prescriptions.

Observations with Respect to Aerobic Fitness and Movement

My aerobic conditioning is lacking. For the past 3-4 months I’ve been tracking my heart rate whenever I session with people or whenever I’ve been on my own.

  • Power moves bring me up to an exceptionally high heart rate very quickly.
  • Even more obvious – footwork, toprocks, transitions, and combination movements result in lower heart rate numbers due to less demanding tasks (when compared to powermoves often seen in bboying).

So with this, I have a few suggestions for other dancers to try.

1. Buy a heart rate monitor and start seeing when you go over a certain threshold.

There are many ways to standardize your heart rate numbers, and “see” where you are in comparison, but if you go running, and utilize the running data as a means to set a standard for where your bboying conditioning should be, then we are already setting you up at a lower standard.

One quick way to do this is to perform your most intensive set, or footwork, or go all out with whatever move set you choose while wearing and tracking your heart rate.

  • Afterwards, see how long it takes for you to return to a heart rate of 130 bpm.
  • Record this time, and remember your move set.

2. Front load power moves in the beginning of the session.

There is a finite window of opportunity with which to practice, due to physiological demands from ATP and PCr energy stores being the drivers in these large movement patterns.

Energy Systems

Photo Credit: 8 Weeks Out

Also, the body’s nervous system has only so much in the “tank” before it gives – so by front loading your choice of movements to work on in the beginning, you are more likely to perform these movements  cleanly, while simultaneously improving your capacity to learn and string movements cleanly together.

Basically, by being less fatigued you are more likely to improve your capacity to move more and move better.

Performing movements under high levels of fatigue may pre-dispose you to a host of systemic issues, namely utilizing synergistic muscle groups as prime movers, when they should be stabilizers, otherwise known as synergistic dominance.

This leads to my next point.

3. Perform movements cleanly, and once you get sloppy, stop.

If you begin to drop in intensity, or it takes longer than a set number of seconds/minute(s) to recover your heart rate, then you should move on to the next task.

I have the ability to discuss heart rates during power moves because I literally had a heart rate monitor on when practicing power moves. Sometimes it took me 2 to 3 minutes to recover from a heart rate of 196 to 130 BPM. If I can make an assumption that someone will have a greater aerobic fitness level than me, then it should take that person less than 2 minutes to restore to an acceptable percentage of heart rate max.

Hopefully at this point, you understand the concept that there are wanted variables and unwanted variables when training. Reaching technical failure on a movement is a largely unwanted variable.

4. Train footwork and transitions to stay within a heart rate of 130 to 150 BPM.

Call this mental conditioning, but next time you practice footwork, give this a try on your off days. By staying within a certain pre-defined heart rate (the 130-150 BPM is an assumed target heart rate – each individual will have fluctuations above and below these levels), you are more likely to stay within a specific range of functioning.


Well, I’m always looking to see if things will transfer to the task that is necessary.

In this case, bboying is the name of the game.

So if you can perform your sets, footwork, and other dancing at a lower heart rate than previous sessions, I’d like to imagine your economy of movement is improved.

Basically you’re more efficient.

I’d say you’re relatively inefficient if your heart rate is at 190+ during footwork for 2 minutes at a time.

5. Recovery between sets is important, so be cognizant of your work:rest ratios.

If you perform back to back sets, chances are you will be at a high heart rate for a long time. Literal physiological power output will likely decrease past a certain number of seconds (8 seconds is the an important time to remember, as this is when the alactic energy system is primed for contributing.)

I’ve timed bboy sets, watched hundreds if not thousands of battles by this point, and I’ve competed as well, all to make an observation that more often than not, many higher level bboys utilize a timeline of about ~15 to 30 seconds of powermoves, footwork, and dancing to get their point across.

Any more time than that, and the message you are trying to convey may not come across as well due to fatigue.

Obviously, performances will have a different set of demands, as they often range anywhere from ~2 minutes to 60 minutes+ of high performance energy!

For those interested in more application of energy systems training to dancing, read on ahead as I’ve attached some interesting items from Mike Robertson and Joel Jamieson respectively.

Further, if you’re interested in learning how to take it to the next level of dance, please sign up for my newsletter, and/or pass or share this info along using the easily available buttons at the bottom of this post. I would appreciate it!

As always,

Keep it funky.


Further Reading

Robertson Training Systems – 10 Nuggets, Tips, and Tricks on Energy System Training

8 Weeks Out – Research Review: Energy Systems, Interval Training, & RSA

8 Weeks Out – Truth About Energy Systems (VIDEO)