Warm Ups | Everything You Need to Know

Warm ups help prevent injury by getting your muscles ready, prepare you mentally for what's ahead, and lets your heart know it's about to start really working. But how can warm-ups help specifically with rucking?

This EYNTK was spurred on by a question from Roster #A22-326, Margie Vail, who asked in Class 033:

"Is there a specific amount of time or movement for a proper warm up? All this time I’ve been thinking that I’m better when the distance is longer because I seem to move faster after the first couple of miles. Now, I’m thinking that’s how long it takes me to actually warm up…I’ve always wondered why all these people at races were tiring themselves out before they actually did the work. Any information appreciated!"

This was such a great question, and there were some great answers in the comment streams. We decided to compile them into this EYNTK for future classes to benefit from, as well as take the opportunity to make specific recommendations.

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The American Heart Association suggests the following basic tips:

  • Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes. The more intense the activity, the longer the warm-up. 
  • Do whatever activity you plan on doing (running, walking, cycling, etc.) at a slower pace (jog, walk slowly). 
  • Use your entire body. For many people, walking on a treadmill and doing some modified bent-knee push-ups will suffice.

There are several components to warming up:

  • Warm-ups should begin with low- to moderate-intensity exercise to get ready for more intense work
  • Include more dynamic movements at the end of the warm-up, or bodyweight exercises that mimic the movements of weight bearing exercises included in your workout.

Activation exercises

  • If you are under the care of a PT for prior injury, warm-ups are a great time to include your exercises for the week as prescribed.
  • Even if you're not under the care of a PT, specific activation exercises can help many ruck endurance athletes. Ruck athletes have known weaknesses in a few locations, mainly thoracic (upper/mid back), core, and glutes. There are a few exercises that can be done to get those particular muscles up to speed and ready for action.
    1. Superman Holds or Swimmers
    2. Banded Pull-Aparts
    3. Scapular Push-Ups (Roller Punches are a great alternative and can be used in conjunction with weights for full effect.)
    4. Planks
    5. Monster Walks & Bodyweight Squats
    6. Walking Lunges
    7. Clamshells

Should I Stretch In a Warm-Up?

  • Warm-ups do not necessarily need stretching. While brief stretching at the end of a warm-up probably does not harm (with the exception of immediately prior to HIIT-style elements), stretching makes your muscles more elastic. More elastic muscles produce less force.


If you're just getting miles in, a planned warm-up mile is a great way to prepare for longer distances.

Your rucking warm up can be completed based on the distance or time you're planning to ruck. You should warm up with your ruck on. If you are planning on only rucking a mile, 25% of that mile, or .25 mile, should be your warm up pace. If you are rucking anything over a mile, use the first mile as your warm up. 

A warm-up pace is one that gets you ready for faster movement. Focus on starting slow, swinging your arms gently at your side, and focus on breathing from your belly. Keep your feet under your hips as you ruck, and begin with your natural pace until you feel ready to pick the pace up. You can hold a comfortable conversation and you can feel the blood flowing. For most people, it’s between 20 - 16 minute/mile.

If you'd like to, you can incorporate some additional movements prior to leaving for your ruck. Those exercises could include 10-14 reps of movements like:

Roster and Course Advisor Michel Lavallee says, "I find I need 1-3 miles to find a comfortable pace and stride if I don’t warm-up which is most of the time since my dog wants to go." Roster Steve Wagner says, "I sort of determine warm-up time by effect. I want to feel physically warm, be perspiring lightly, and to feel like my old man joints are moving smoothly. Sometimes that takes a half hour, sometimes ten minutes." Obviously everybody's body is different, and what you need can also change from day to day, depending on how well you've recovered, how much sleep you've gotten, how long you've been sitting, etc.


Workout warm-ups should be complete based on the length of time planned for the workout.

Short 5-minute warmups are perfect for short (15min) HIITs. Your warm up should focus on bodyweight components of the exercises you'll complete during the workout.

For example, if the workout requires jump squats, you should complete at least 8-10 bodyweight squats.

10-minute warm-ups are good for adding to a 20-minute workout. Again, focus on bodyweight movements similar to those in the workout you’re about to do.

15-minute warm-up are the sweet spot for most exercise under an hour. Your warm up should include bodyweight movements similar to those programmed in your workout and activation exercises that address key personal needs.

Examples: You’re having intermittent low back pain without injury. Your activation exercises would focus on glutes with exercises like clamshells and glute bridges. If you’re having trouble on overhead work, you can include activation exercises that focus on shoulder and thoracic spine mobility and fluidity plus strength, like scapular push-ups and rollers. 

30 minute warm ups can be done for any workout for over an hour in length. Because a workout of this length is generally completed during a training cycle, special attention needs to be placed on proper activation exercises needed for specific movements and can include dynamic or ballistic drill work at the end of the workout.


When warming up prior to an Event, you should allocate at least 20-30 minutes prior to your Event. Warm up exercises should be completed with Event requirements in mind, but your goal should be to warm up each body segment.

Some wise warm up exercises to perform:

  1. Monster Walks & Bodyweight Squats
  2. Walking Lunges
  3. Clamshells
  4. Warm Up Crabwalks
  5. Reverse Calf Raises
  6. Lateral Squat Waves
  7. Walking Knee Hugs
  8. Long Striders
  9. Frontal Leg Swings (each side)
  10. Sagittal Plane Leg Swings (each side)
  11. Bodyweight Push-Ups
  12. Planks
  13. Overhead Shrugs (can be performed with full ruck)
  14. Warm up 1/2 mile to 1 mile


Warming up in hot weather has special considerations.

It can take 4-6 weeks to fully acclimate to hotter weather conditions. (Ever notice that your outdoor workouts are harder at the beginning of summer, and easier at the end?) Plan accordingly. If you have an Event at the start of summer and you know it will be hot, spending time post-workout in a steam room or sauna, or doing hot yoga, can be beneficial to getting your body acclimated a little faster.

You should always make sure you've had plenty of fluid electrolytes, and this is crucial in hot weather. While cold drinks typically are seen as physically "confusing" to your body prior to working out, there is some potential benefit here to cooling your core prior to your warm up and exercise, especially prior to a hot weather endurance Event.

Your warm ups shortened in length because it will take a shorter amount of time to be fully warmed up. If you're rucking over the summer, the 1/2 to full mile it takes you to warm up in regular weather conditions could take you only 1/4 to 1/2 a mile instead.


Cold weather warm ups are musts for athletes.

Just like in hot weather, it can take your body 4-6 weeks to acclimate to cool weather. You may notice your pace adjusts as temps drop because cold restricts blood flow. Rather than force through things and risk injury, slow down and allow your body to adjust over time.

Warming up indoors allows you get ready for your outdoor ruck or exercise more comfortably and your body expends slightly less energy during your warm up just trying to keep you warmer.

Making sure you're properly dressed for the weather by wearing layers is also important. Your head, feet, and hands lose heat the quickest, so at least make sure those are covered to help your body focused on the exercise and not on just keeping your core temperature where it needs to be.


Cool down pace is slower, very relaxed and can be shorter than your warm-up phase. If you were looking at splits (time per mile), you’d be at a 22 - 17 minute per mile pace. 

Cool downs are a great opportunity to not only do the obvious - slow your heart rate - but to get in stretching and mobility work. Be sure to stretch your quads, hips/glutes and shoulders at the bare minimum.

The American Heart Society recommends the following:

  • Walk for about 5 minutes, or until your heart rate gets below 120 beats per minute.

  • Stretching:

    • Hold each stretch 10 to 30 seconds. If you feel you need more, stretch the other side and return for another set of stretching.

    • The stretch should be strong, but not painful.

    • Do not bounce.

    • Breathe while you’re stretching. Exhale as you stretch, inhale while holding the stretch.

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