Science behind the warm ups

Curious about the science behind the warm ups.

Some workouts have a progressive ramp up with openers and a chance to mentally get ready for the first effort. Some are a tempo/sweet spot effort that feels like slogging through wet concrete (Angels, The Hunted, The Rookie) and makes the the first effort feel quite miserable. Others go right from the warm up into the first effort with no chance to prepare (kind of like real life when running late for a race!)

Why the different approaches? What is the science between them? How to better prepare when there isn’t time to throw in something like the GCN warm up for the wet concrete warm up efforts?


@ErickT There was great post on this topic a few months ago. It gave me the impression that that there isn’t a one size fits all answer to your question and your own warm-up needs could vary quite a bit - for example, if you spent time calibrating your trainer, doing some pre-workout yoga, are finishing another video or maybe a run other other exercise, the time of day you are doing your workout and how hot or cold it is in your flogging station.

For the more intense videos I generally do some sort of warmup ranging from GCN Ready, Steady, Go, GCN Minimum Time Max Results or Ignitor or the Pre-Ride Activation yoga or any of the other yoga activation videos.

I generally know when I misjudged the warmup - it usually hits me in the 1st set / effort. For me it is about both about getting muscles as well as nervous system ready.


Yes, the amount of warm up needed is very personal. I can definitely tell in some of the harder workouts that the first effort seems really painful and I wonder if I’ll ever make through the entire thing. But then once I’ve got that first effort under me the rest of the efforts don’t feel as difficult until the fatigue starts setting in towards the end.

It’s like doing a good long 3 x 20 tempo or sweet spot workout. The first 5 minutes of the first effort feels horrendous. But then I settle in and the rest of the workout feels great until the middle of the third effort when my collective efforts set in and the fatigue is real.

And some of this is also due to suffer science progression. Angels is definitely one of those older workouts that just throws you right in without a good warm up. But most of the more recent workouts that have been developed using better suf science have longer workouts and don’t immediately throw you to the wolves. For those new workouts, the warm up often feels really difficult, even when the power targets are pretty sensible. But then when the real efforts kick in I’m already warmed up and they often feel much easier than I expect.


Hey, I’ve read that. Being time crunched I don’t have the luxury to do beyond what is on the plan M-F. Additionally M-F is the dawn patrol or the workouts won’t consistently happen.

My question is more into why the variation on warm ups - why are some at an effort level of 8 (just below FTP) even though it says otherwise right out of the gates vs others that go through a progression that gives the body a chance to really wake up and go.

i think probably as Emacdoug said, SUF’s thinking as to the warm up has developed a bit over time. Remember it’s just like any coach who designs a program. part is based on science, part is based on coaching experience. They often are consistent but sometimes one lags the other or vice versa. Some of the older workouts probably throw you right in with a short warmup thinking that you can compensate through intensity (and partially you probably can, but only partially). Later ones, the science understanding has caught up and they change the warmup a bit to be more comprehensive.

My understanding of the science, is that partially it just requires time and there is no way to shortcut a proper warmup. When you begin exercising, your body starts creating these hormones (the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine) which get your body ready. They dilate peripheral blood vessels but also activate lipolysis (i.e. freeing up ATP from stored fats). This is important even for intense exercise that requires glycogen (because think, if even 10% extra energy is available from lipolysis, you can go that much longer / harder with your glycogen stores before they tap out). But they take time to build up and then the lipolysis they stimulate itself takes time. So if you are jumping straight into intensity, including as part of your warmup, you may be jump-starting the catecholamine flow but your’e also just chomping through glycogen without any support yet from the lipids. This is probably also why people say that the fitter you are, the more warmup you need, because your energy demands are higher and so more ATP needs to be made available to support it (i.e. more lipids need to be mobilized in this step).

So i don’t think there’s really any shortcut. Or rather you CAN skip it, but there’s a consequence. But if you can start easy spinning with gradually increasing intensity for even just five to ten minutes before you start the video, this can be a hack that you might have time for. You can even finish your coffee while you spin :slight_smile:


Here’s the link I wanted to include in my original post.

There has definitely be an improvement in SUF science. Sir Dave admits as much. He was an athlete when he started Sufferfest, not a coach. Over time, with the addition of coaches with more of a sports science background (e.g. Sir Neal, etc), the science really improved and the workouts improved as well.


As others have said, a ‘good’ warm-up varies from one rider to another and varies from day to day for a single rider. The reality is we can’t create a perfect warm-up for everyone on every session (yet).

Generally speaking, if you know a specific video has a warm-up that doesn’t work for you, I recommend riding the warm-up in level mode, complete the efforts that you feel work best for you, and switch back to erg mode before the first interval starts.

I will do that with sessions like AVDP and Angels because 1) those sessions are quite hard 2) I know what warm-up works for me for those types of efforts.
Several of the workouts/videos existed before Neal, and I joined SUF. We went through all sessions to update them with 4DP targets, but some of the warm-ups (and workouts) need some tweaks, which is a project we are currently working on.


Thank you for the tips.


Slight aside, but I now use the warm up from Team Scream (as @Coach.Mac.C mentionrd in that post) to warm up prior to a TT. It’s a relatively easy one to replicate on the road and doesn’t take too long and you can add on a couple of short sprints at the end if required.


I really like that idea. I was thinking along those lines myself as I find the very start of most SUF warm-ups just a bit too much effort. I prefer starting off at a very low power (<100W) and ramping up over the first few minutes to the target warm-up power, rather than just starting off at a fixed warm-up wattage, which is usually 142W for me in most SUF workouts. I also prefer a lower starting cadence, but obviously can just ignore the target cadence, which is often 90 rpm.


It’s definitely not you. Now I’m older I sometimes don’t feel warmed up properly until I hit the third set of the Chores…


A great topic, something obvious I have never thought of asking. I die during some Suff warm ups and seriously doubt my ability to arrive at the 1st “real effort” Others ease me in gently then the first effort is such a shock to the system I spend half the workout recovering from that one effort, once over what follows is usually easier for me.