This image shows some gymnastic rings, a set of parallettes, and a resistance band positioned on a white background,

The 15′ upper body Calisthenics Warm-Up to stay injury-free

Don't skip it, mate.

Although warming up can be a pain in the ***, it is important.
Especially in the world of bodyweight training, handstands and acrobatics a well-planned upper body warm-up saves you some injuries.

I created this warm-up as a part of my calisthenics for beginner series, in which you get a complete program for your use. I also posted a lower body warm-up which can be found here. Use them as you like!

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This Calisthenics warm-up evolved over the years of my practice and isn’t by any means perfect, nor the final solution to every warm-up.1

When I started I warmed up like many folks – circle your hands a bit, stretch your hamstrings and go directly into bench pressing the hell out of the following session.

Fortunately, over the years my mind changed on that and I discovered many benefits of warming up thoroughly. Here I wanna share these with you!

Why should I invest that much time into a warm-up?

Something like that could sound the question in your mind as you read.

A good upper body warm-up is important before you hit it hard within your workout!
Warm up before you hit it hard!

A long time I didn’t care that much about warming up – the first time I really dove into that topic was when I kinda-injured my wrist for the first time practicing crows and cranes.
My point behind this story is – warm-ups are important not only to prevent injuries.2 I don’t know if this injury could be avoided but at least there is the chance it could be.

Before every calisthenics session, warm-up properly. With properly I mean – preparing yourself for the upcoming activities. There is not much sense warming up your wrists before squatting heavy.

The sole goal of a warmup is to prepare your body – to bring your heart rate up, bring blood into your tissues, and to let your mind turn inwards.

If the exercises you do, don’t manage to do so, throw them out radically. One great example here would be long static holds. Why do so many stretch this way before their workouts? I can’t answer that.3

  • Great activities are cardio, light dynamic mobility work, warming up stabilizing muscles, or doing the exercise you wanna train scaled down.


After that, you should be there. You should be in your body and not only be warmed up, but also feel more in control of what’s going on inside of you. Let’s see how you manage to do that!

The Calisthenics Warm-Up for your Upper Body

This warmup can be done prior to any upper body session. It is focussed on your wrists and shoulders as well as some mobility.

The only things you need are a tube* and something to do some cardio with. Pretty basic equipment requirements. This can be done in every gym, park, or beach.

As mentioned above – it isn’t the only warm-up there is which makes sense. Quite contrary there is much great stuff out there!
But I’ve seen this content didn’t get through to those who need it.

The art of warming up is to find a repertoire of exercises that fit your needs.

And here I see my job – giving you the tools you need and a bit of help to set up a great warm-up prior to your calisthenics session. Feel free to swap exercises out and incorporate your favorites. 🙂 

The actual Warm-Up Routine

  • Breathing (1 Minute)
    Before thinking of moving just sit down relax and breathe. The goal is to come into your training and see where you’re at on that particular day.
    Focus on your body and turn inward. Sit down for 10-20 breaths like that.
  • Wrists (5-10r per exercise):
    • I outline the wrist warmup I do for years in detail in this post about wrist health. Feel free to read through there for GIFs, explanations, and a YouTube Video on the exercises. Depending on how your wrists feel a particular day go through it once or twice.
    • Wrist Circles (15-20r)
      The classic of every wrist warmup – get some blood flowing. You can either do them with your hands opened or closed into a fist. Another alternative I like is to do them with your hands clasped first as waves, then as circles.
    • Around the Worlds (~30s per position)
      Load every position of the 4 positions mentioned in a quadruped position for~30s and be active. Move around, from side to side, circular or perform a few isometric contractions in each position.
    • Gymnastic Big 3’s (10-15r per exercise)
      The combination of knuckle pushups, wrist pushups and rocks are widely spread in the realm of gymnastics. No wonder regarding the high impact on the wrist early on.
    • Shakeout
  • Shoulders (5-10r per exercise):
    • 3-Way Pullaparts
      Who doesn’t know them*? They are a staple of many upper body warm-ups, not only in calisthenics. What we do is adding a twist and perform them in 3 different positions – in external rotation pulling backwards, pulling downwards diagonally, and shrugging into an overhead position.
    • Tube External Rotation to Extension
      Another classic gone wild. Everybody and his grandmother knows external rotations – what we do here is expanding the range of motion into extension to further challenge your muscles.
      I have to admit it takes some time to get used to them. Focus on keeping your shoulder blades together and down as good as possible.
    • Tube Overhead Press
      Easy as it gets, it is important though to keep the arms in and not let the elbows flare out to the side. Focus on this and pressing.
      As an alternative, you could do these single-armed like people perform landmine presses.
    • Side Lateral Raises
      One often neglected movement pattern in bodyweight sports is that one – because there is no exercise that covers it as the side lateral raise does. Perform these preferably with a light weight, weightplate* or if these are not around a resistance band.
  • Big Moves (5min):
    • Last but not least, set 5 minutes aside to get moving. I like to keep this part intuitive and do a few movements in combination that cover many patterns. It’s more about playful exploration and getting into movement rather than exhaustion. Nonetheless let me present to you my favorite combos. Feel free to add whatever movement you like or combine them in the way you feel:
      • Table Position to Upward Dog to Downward Dog
      • Lunge to Cossack Squat to World Greatest Stretch to Plank
      • Squat to Forward Roll to Squat to Backward Roll to Seiza
      • Table Position to Swipe to Table Position
      • Jefferson Curls to Backbend
BreathingWristsShouldersBig Moves
10-20 breathsCircles (15-20r)3-Way Banded Pullaparts (~8r per position)Squat to Forward Roll to Squat to Backward Roll to Seiza
Around the Worlds (~30s per positon)Banded Dislocates (8-10r)Lunge to Cossack Squat to World Greatest Stretch to Plank
Gymanstic Big 3’s (10r per position)Tube External Rotation to Extension (5r)Table Position to Upward Dog to Downward Dog
Tube Overhead Press + Side Lateral Raise (~10r)…or whatever pops in your midn and you’d like to combine!

Warm-up finished – what now?

When first done, this upper body warm-up might seem endless. But with repetition comes routine.
You shouldn’t need longer than 15-20 minutes when you are into it. Feel always free to do less when you are feeling ready to rock and proceed more quickly into your workout. Vice versa you could also do a round or two more of a certain area that feels sore or restricted on a given day.
The only thing you shouldn’t do is to go prone-bone and skip your workout entirely – everybody needs to warmup and despite only injury prevention a good warmup also enhances your performance.

First General, then Specific

After a general calisthenics warm-up follows some specific warmup for the exercises coming up.
After general comes specific warming up

After finishing the warmup you should feel warm, limber, and pumped up – ready for action! The next thing to think about which exercise comes first in your upcoming workout? That’s where specific warmup comes into place:

  • Perform 1-2 warm-up sets of this particular exercise to get the movement primed
  • Then kick ass!

So let’s say you train free handstands on that day. After you’re generally warmed up it would make a lot of sense to prime the movement and get into balancing by doing a few wall assisted handstands or balances. Even going through a few kickups is a good idea.
Another example would be that you train front levers next. There 1-2 sets of scapular positioning with a band, hanging or holding a very easy progression for a prolonged time would come in handy before carrying on to more difficult progressions that mark the beginning of your front lever sesh.


Alright, that shall be it for today! Have fun with this routine and make sure to check out the embedded YouTube video of mine (the very first one!). If you have any constructive criticism on this one, any requests, or ideas for improvement I’d love to hear your opinion!

Anyways cheers for your feedback and have fun training :-),

THis is my Signature.




Footnotes

  1. Spoiler: There is no such thing. Many warm-ups are great! And the greatest is the one you do, no matter what.
  2. And yours of course.
  3. For some instances stretching statically might be useful before working out – if you train compression exercises or lacking mobility – but in most cases, it makes not much sense to do so.
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