Best Anaerobic Warm-Up Exercises for Athletes

Best Anaerobic Warm-Up Exercises for Athletes

Sports Performance

Anaerobic sports are explosive and quick in nature. They also don’t require the body to utilize energy as its oxygen source. Think of a sprint around the bases in softball, a shift on the ice in hockey, or any jumping motion. 

The duration of the anaerobic activity lasts anywhere from seconds up to roughly two minutes. To ensure peak performance, anaerobic warm-up exercises are essential to help increase blood flow to the main tissues of the body (while getting a good sweat in, too).

What Are the Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise?

  • Improves blood circulation
  • Builds muscle mass
  • Reduces body fat
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Controls blood sugar levels
  • Increases lactic acid

A good warm-up for anaerobic sports should be broken down into three parts: the initial warm-up, movement preparation, and performance priming. Let’s dive into each area more:

Anaerobic Warm-up Exercises

The initial warm-up

Jogging a couple of laps, skipping rope, or spending ten minutes on a stationary bike, whatever you can do to get your heart rate elevated will do wonders for your performance and prevent injuries in the long run.

A good warm-up will have a multitude of benefits to the body, such as:

  • Increase blood flow to working tissues. Better blood flow allows oxygen to move more easily through the body which will help you perform better.
  • Increase body temperature. This promotes perspiration and leads to an increased heart rate.
  • Increase heart rate. An increased heart rate will pump blood faster through your body, providing your muscles with the oxygen and fuel they need to perform.
  • Increase synovial fluid in joints. Synovial fluid is like oil in a car. It protects your joints and allows the neighbouring structures to glide smoothly across one another.
  • Increase respiration rate. Again, this will promote more oxygen consumption so you can increase the amount of oxygen that can travel to the working muscles.

Something to point out for this section of the warm-up is to take this time to visualize and get your mind right for the task at hand. Sports are just as much mental as it is physical. Use this time effectively to center your breathing, visualize your success for the demands that are to come, and crush your general warm-up!

Movement preparation

The goal in the second portion of the warm-up is to narrow in on the exercise being done. In the movement preparation section, you want to specifically target the key muscles that are going to be used in the sport and mobilize the key joints involved.

Spend roughly 30 seconds to 1 minute foam rolling each of the major muscle groups that you will be using for your sport. Foam rolling helps promote blood flow to tissues and allows for greater mobility to be obtained.

If you are performing lower-body anaerobic sports, then rolling your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves is a great start. If you are performing upper-body anaerobic sports, then rolling out your upper back, pecs, and lats are ideal to focus on.

Once you have spent some time on the foam roller, you can begin your dynamic warm-up. Some go-to exercises are:

  • High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Arm Huggers
  • Arm Swings
  • High Leg Kicks
  • Dead Hangs

Perform each of these anaerobic warm-up exercises for 10-20 seconds, and repeat if you feel necessary. These exercises will have you feeling loose, limber, and ready to prime your body for performance!

Performance priming

Anaerobic sports require optimal power output. In order to be explosive in your movements, your nervous system must be able to react as quickly as possible, while enervating as many muscle fibres as possible. Performance priming is the last step, but is the meat and potatoes of your warm-up.

Here is a list of top-performance priming drills:

  • Explosive Push-ups (5 explosive presses)
    • Just like a normal push-up, keep good form and press yourself off of the ground as high as you can. When you land, you want to absorb the force as quickly as you can and perform another push-up immediately as possible.

  • Bent-Over Slam Ball Presses (5 explosive presses)
    • Take a soft-weight ball, slam it into the floor as hard as possible, and catch the ball upon it returning back to your chest. Press your hips back and bend your knees to make the slam more powerful.

  • Explosive Squat Jumps (5 explosive jumps)
    • Squat down to the ground and stand up as fast as possible, leaving the ground as a jump. When landing, land in an athletic position, and immediately jump again. Make sure that your back is flat, and that your ankles, knees, and hips are all stacked on top of one another.

  • Bounding (10-20 yards)
    • Bounding is an exaggerated running technique designed to increase the length of your stride and the extent of your hip extension for single-leg jumps. When practicing your bounding technique, be sure to lead with your heel and push off the ground with a flat foot.

  • Box Jumps (5 explosive jumps)
    • Start about 1-2 steps away from the box with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, swing both your arms back behind you, and explode up onto a medium-sized box. Make sure you land softly with your legs bent (soft knees are key here!) and flat feet.

  • Depth Jumps (3 landing and reactive jumps)
    • Start on top of a box or bench. Step off of the box and land in an athletic position and immediately jump back up. This is training the muscles to stretch on command and then immediately contract again to produce optimal force.

  • 10-40 Yard Sprints (3-5 reps)
    • Perform quick short sprints at max effort. To make your sprints faster, move your arms from front to back, keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees, and remain running in a straight line (although this tip may sound obvious, runners often stray to the left or right side, reducing their run time).

Each one of these exercises won’t require many sets and reps, as they should be an all-out max-effort attempt. The goal of priming your body for performance is to have the muscle and nervous system ready to react in a split second to perform the specific demands of your sport.

Wrapping Up

Anaerobic warm-up exercises will help any athlete improve muscle flexibility, prevent injury, and most importantly, increase blood flow and circulation. Although finding time for a proper warm-up may seem like a challenge, taking a few extra minutes before the start of any high-intensity exercise to activate muscles and loosen joints will make all the difference.

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FAQ — Anaerobic Warm-Up Exercises for Athletes

Both types of exercises help boost blood flow, increase metabolism, and help you maintain a healthy heart.

• Jumping jacks
• Box jumps
• High knees
• Burpees
• Kettlebell squat

Yes. With short bursts of exercise during anaerobic activity, your body is forced to burn fat to sustain the level of intensity being asked from it.

Let’s suppose you were doing 4 reps of jump rope for 30 seconds each. During this anaerobic exercise circuit, your body is naturally burning fat to endure the exertion of skipping nonstop for 30 seconds at a time.

Most anaerobic bursts are 30 seconds or less. Anything over the 30-second limit is hard for the body to handle.

While anaerobic training can be beneficial for any sport, sports that require quick acceleration or deceleration will reap the most benefits.

For instance, a quarterback in football must be able to change direction and speed quickly to avoid a sack. Through anaerobic training, a football player will be able to run faster with greater power.

Anaerobic exercise burns fat, builds muscle, improves joint health, lowers your risk of chronic disease (such as heart disease or diabetes), and boosts your mood.

An effective anaerobic warm-up should include both light cardiovascular activity and dynamic stretching movements. This could be a mix of high knees, walking lunges, arm circles, and jumping jacks.

Spend at least 5 minutes warming up. This will ensure your blood is flowing and your muscles are loose.


Elanne is SkillShark’s marketing aficionado who is equal parts passionate about sports, marketing and sports marketing. She can usually be found with a golf ball or three in her purse, and her favorite way to spend downtime is out on the course with friends and family.