Strength and Conditioning Programs for Wildland Firefighters

Warm Up Routine

Learn The Best Way to Warm Up for a Run

Right over left and down for 10? Save that one for after the workout

Old habits are hard to break, especially when it comes to routines that many of us have been doing since Pop Warner Football and Little League. A growing body of research on athletic performance has shown that the traditional way of warming up for exercise isn’t just ineffective – it might actually negatively impact performance.

What do we mean by a traditional warmup? The old way of “warming up” was based upon a series of static stretches like toe touches, butterflies, and standing quad stretches. Usually, they’d be done for a ten count, repeated once or twice, then you’d move on to the next stretch. The problem is that simply taking tight, cold muscles and tugging on them doesn’t really do that much good.

A recent study at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas confirmed that the force an athlete was able to generate was markedly decreased by static stretching compared to other athletes in the group who completed the same tasks without stretching at all. Static stretching actually hindered their performance!

It’s important to realize what the point of a warmup is. “It should loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints, and literally warm-up the body” (Reynolds, 2008).

Unlike a lion, tiger or a crazed housecat, the human body struggles to go from sedentary to active immediately. It needs a period of transition in order to achieve optimum results. If you’re struggling on runs and hikes, it could be due to a poor warmup.

Think about it from a physiological point of view. When you’re scared, the brain dumps adrenaline into the body, and blood is rushed to the limbs. Heart rate increases, and body temperature rises in anticipation of intense physical exertion. When the body knows it’s going to be working hard, it does all those things.

Unless you want to terrify yourself before the start of each workout, you’re going to need to artificially replicate those physiological changes. And you do that by warming up.

We found a great video on documenting the basis for an effective dynamic stretching routine. While the warmup was designed for runners, it’ll help get your body ready for a hiking workout as well. Here’s the routine:

Running Warm Up

  • Very light jog: 3-5 minutes or a combination of jumping jacks or jump rope, etc.
  • Walking Lunges
  • Leg Lifts (10x per leg)
  • Butt Kickers (10x per leg)
  • Pike Stretch (10x per leg)
  • Hackey Sack (10x per leg)
  • Toy Soldier (10x per leg)


“Stretching the Truth” Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, 11/02/2008.

Runner’s World


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