Teaching Skills

Warming Up Doesn’t Have to Be Boring. Why Nobody Should Skip the Warm Up.

More and more I hear teachers and clients say they’re going to skip the warm up. When I ask why, they say because their clients are strong and healthy or want the workout to be hard and so forth. I understand the reluctance to start slow and the desire to quickly move into a challenging workout, but a good warm-up can make all the exercises in the workout not only safer but more effective. And honestly, who doesn’t have 5-minutes to ensure a more safe and effective workout? So let’s talk warm up!

Many clients work all day then race to the studio just in time for class to begin their session. They’ve been sitting all day at a desk, in the car, barely moving out of a fixed posture. I always laugh when one of my clients  says she feels “fossilized.” A fossilized body needs to warm up.

A warm up will build focus the mind, move the spine and major joints, increase blood flow to muscles, increase mobility, raises body temperature, and may also help reduce risk of injury.  It basically gradually revs up your cardiovascular engines!

And it doesn’t have to be boring! Try my rules for creating a R.A.D. Warm-up.


R. Relate to the Workout

A warm up should be related to the intensity of the workout portion of your session. The warm-up for a gentle flowing essential Pilates class should be different than the warm up for a high intensity advance Pilates workout. As a general rule, the harder the workout, the longer the warm up needs to be.

Additionally, your warm up should relate to the challenges and movements that will be built upon later in the class. If you’re planning to introduce a difficult exercise, think about the motions that the exercise require, and try to integrate some of those movements into the warm up. For example, to prepare for Standing Front Splits on the Reformer, a warm up might integrate some of the following elements:

  • Stability and balance,
  • Isolated knee extension,
  • Ankle, knee, and hip alignment

A good warm up also offers an opportunity for you to focus your student on a concept or Basic Principle. This highlight can be carried through the entire class, improving form, stability, and deepen their muscle activation overall.

B.T. W. I love the idea of the warm up being a 30-second commercial or movie trailor for the planned workout.

A. Activate Body & Mind

Warming up offers an opportunity for clients to begin to focus on their bodies after a busy day. A warm up will ensure that by the time exercises begin, they’re well focused and ready to work (which also makes your job easier as a teacher). And don’t forget that being focused is key to building proprioception and awareness.

To be physically ready to engage in more challenges, the warm up should mobilize the spine and major joints and increases blood flow to muscles.

D. Dynamic & Full Body

Start a session with a warm up that includes dynamic elements and builds from a slower pace towards moderate, full body movements. Dynamic movements require the body to resist gravity while moving in a direction and/or balancing itself, which encourages awareness of alignment. You might begin with a very thoughtful Breathing exercise, then towards the middle of the warm up you’ve progressed to full bodied Cat Stretch and Hip Rolls, and finish with supine Toe Taps on the foam Roller.

I believe warm ups are an essential part of a workout. I hopefully these tips will help you love warming up. And perhaps breathe some new life into the first 5-10 minutes of your sessions.

Good luck building a R.A.D warm up!
With love and BIG faith in your teaching,

  • Avatar
    Caroline Liviakis
    March 5, 2015 at 7:33 am

    One of the other extremely beneficial things that will result from this emphasis on including a warm-up (particularly the “R” part of the R.A.D. method), is that it forces the instructor to deeply analyze the actions occurring in exercises, the importance of these actions (where will it lead you further/help you in other ways), and what will help the client achieve this. In order for me to design a warm-up leading to a stronger, more dynamic exercise, I have to really know what I am actually teaching when giving warm-up exercises as this becomes the key to development for the more complex and perhaps desirable pilates work. Clarity in purpose and goal results from this re-concentration for the instructor and hence, client.

    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      April 7, 2015 at 5:56 am

      YES! Exactly. How can the client be clear if the instructor isn’t. Make it relate.

  • Avatar
    Heather Stockton
    February 24, 2015 at 6:20 am

    I love the intention behind a R.A.D warm-up! I notice a huge difference in focus, core awareness, and full bodied activation when I approach exercises with a warm- up or prep versus going straight into the work out. Not only do I notice the differences during the activity but also in my body the next day. I find that the more intention and awareness I have in preparing for my work out, the less pain I feel the next day. Thanks for the tips!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Sachs
    October 10, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Love all your tips, Holly. I agree completely with the concept of warming up & thanks for the R.A.D. acronym 🙂 If clients give the feeling “this is review”, I love giving another layer of difficulty in the workout and recall the principle in the warmup they should relate the movement to: ah ha, purpose!

    Keep up the good work, Kelly

Leave a Reply


Instagram has returned invalid data.

Follow Me!