Plus, why you should never skip warm-up or recovery exercises.
Certified personal trainer, Sam Sweeney, has been coaching her clients — both in the gym and online through her digital programming — to help them achieve their fitness goals for over five years. Together, she and her husband, Noel Sweeney, own and operate Sweeney Fitness Gym in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her fitness app, Sweeney shares daily workouts, barbell and dumbbell programs, activation and warm-up exercises, and mobility and recovery workouts.
Working with her clients over the years, she says she quickly realized quality of movement is vital to not only training, but preparation for training, too.
“I started to realize the improvements that people made were much more meaningful and impactful when we had proper activation, or warm-up, and proper recovery, because movement is medicine when it’s good movement,” Sweeney says.
Activation, or warm-up, exercises are typically short exercises done to prepare your muscles for the workout ahead. They’re essential, not optional, Sweeney says.
“If there are things in your movement patterns that are inconsistent or that you struggle with or you’ve got knee issues or hip issues, this is the moment to address those things, before going in and stacking weight on a bar and getting under a heavy lift and then feeling unprepared. So, the main part, especially [with] activation and warm-up, is addressing things that you’re going to be working on within that lift,” Sweeney says.
The benefits of activation routines, she says, include myofascial release — getting your muscles stretched and ready for movement — and addressing energy leaks or inconsistencies.
She advises choosing an activation exercise that addresses whatever workout you’re going to be doing for the day, and while it might be tempting to just jump right into your workout, don’t skip your warm-up. The temptation to go right into a workout, she says, is the reason she included these workouts in her app.
“I was that person — I just wanted to get into it, get in, get it done, and that’s why we did the activation and warm-up and recovery and mobility routines, because I know that you just want to go in and [quickly] be able to pull something up, otherwise you won’t do it, and you’ll just skip it, and it’ll be onto the next thing,” Sweeney says. “That’s why those sections were so important for me, because… I just want people to do it. I don’t even care how much time they spend on it, because they’ll realize the benefit as they do it.”
Equally important, Sweeney says, are mobility and recovery movements post-workout. You can do the routines in Sweeney’s app right after your workout, or in the evening, like she does.
“I personally choose to do my mobility at the end of the night, separated away from my training, because I let my body recover a little bit, I eat a meal, kind of see where I’m sitting, see how I’m feeling after the adrenaline of the workout comes down,” Sweeney says. “And then, when you’re going through these movements, like I said, movement is medicine. So, even in your mobility and recovery work, it’s moving through movements and feeling how your joints are feeling. You’re really just prepping yourself to feel your absolute best… It’s amazing what it does for the body.”
If you don’t cool down after working out, Sweeney says, you run the risk of not getting the most out of your next workout, or worse, injury. Mobility and recovery work just means preparing yourself for more movement.
“We move all day long, no matter what we’re doing, whether it’s sitting or standing. You want to be able to feel your best in those situations, so if you’re not addressing these things — addressing the inconsistencies or the energy leaks or the things that you don’t feel confident in — they’ll never improve… Training should only elevate your life, it should make you feel good and capable and strong as you move forward in your daily routines,” Sweeney says.
Sweeney’s activation and warm-up and mobility and recovery programs are split into upper body and lower body workouts. The activation and warm-up program also includes a full-body routine, which is what Sweeney recommends starting with.
“The full-body is a good one to start at because it includes exercises for both the upper and lower [body] but it combines them all together into more of a flow, so you’re just moving from one exercise to the next, getting your body able to recover,” Sweeney says.
She plans to add new activation and mobility exercises to her app on a regular basis, eventually moving beyond basic routines.
“We haven’t gone into band traction or any of that other world of work and there’s different styles of recovery, there’s different styles of activation and warming up, and different things work for different people,” Sweeney says. “We want to be able to serve the widest array of people possible, so we’ll definitely be expanding on both of those as we go.”
Her ultimate goal, she says, is to help people feel what it’s like to move well, and that her app is “like having a trainer and a training partner in your back pocket.”
“We train for life, so we want people to be able to sustain what they love to do forever, and that’s why we’ve included certain things in our app that are pointed toward that,” Sweeney says. “My wish for people is that they know that movement is so good and it is medicine and it can be used to elevate your life as a whole.”
You’ll find all of Sweeney’s activation and mobility workouts in her fitness app. For additional activation and recovery workouts, check out:
Demi Bagby’s mobility program and mobility workouts
FitGurlMel’s stretches and recovery
Niki SugarySixpack’s warm-up and cool-down workouts
Hannah Bower’s mobility and stability workouts
Taylor Mei’s mobility workouts
Obi Vincent’s mobility workouts
About the author
Cara is a passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media. She loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. In her free time, Cara is an avid reader, enjoys meditating, and loves spending time with her husband and their chihuahua pug mix, Callie, streaming the latest horror flick or true crime documentary. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.