How A Navy SEAL Warm up Works

By Paul "Batman" O'Brien 

B.A., N.C.E.H.S., Dip. Acu., Cert Clin. IMed., Dip. Adv. OBB, Dip. CHM, Pn1, PN-SSR, PN-NCA, M.AFPA., M.C.Th.A.

The Navy SEAL Warm up is VITAL for long term fluidity of movement and in keeping the body free from injury. I cannot tell you how many people regret in their 30's and 40's not warming up properly.

Traditional martial artists, the samurai and modern day Special Forces warriors all invest in a thorough warm up before engaging in rigorous training. I do the same and as such I've been able to maintain near constant high level intensive training in the martial arts and combat where many of my fellow trainees are broken, injured and post surgical replacement of key joints. 

The warm up sequence I teach my fitness and strength students is the one I used by SWAT, SAS, Navy SEALS and more. It is the same warm up sequence I teach when instructing or training with members of elite military units. It's also the same exact warm up I teach in my martial arts classes. 

Why Should You Use the Navy SEAL Warm up?

As with nearly EVERY aspect of my training with Special Forces units and members each exercise and each drill trains multiple fronts simultaneously. A push-up isn't just an upper body strength building exercise. It's a balance drill, or teaching stability for a firing position, or it's a cardiovascular drill, there's always something else. Some other reason, some additional benefit - multi-tasking in a movement. The warm up is the same. 

There is a 4 fold purpose to this:

  1. Preparation of Joints and Muscles
  2. Cardiovascular exercises
  3. Stretching 
  4. Conflict Attack and Defence preparation

1. Cardiovascular exercises (to overcome conflict fatigue) 

If you're gassed you can't be effective in combat. You can't be effective in your unit. Harking back to Vol. 2: Tanren - you can't endure. Conflict, particularly prolonged conflict is tiring. Not just physically but mentally. 

The Navy SEAL warm up is dynamic; it gets you moving and gently prepares your heart and lungs for more intense physical activity. The better cardiovascular condition you are the better you are able to function as warrior be it Samurai or Special Forces.

As such our warm up incorporates this and prepares us for this. (Note: the Navy SEAL Warm up is a WARM UP - it's not a workout. Don't make this so intense that you are huffing and puffing and need a warm up for your warm up. It's to prepare the body for the workout - not the workout itself. 

2. Stretching (to prevent muscle injuries during exercises & drills)

Having flexible muscles is a crucial component for long term health and fitness. Mobility of the joints and a healthy range of motion is an absolute requirement for soldiers and warriors - so is not being injured. Stretching is vital component in making sure you don't get injured easily. A needlessly injured soldier isn't much good to the army or navy. 

In the mindset of those in martial service it is of great importance to make sure you are capable for serving and for doing so as long as you can.  A warrior NEVER neglects his stretching. If you want to still be functional in 20 years, neither do you. I  see time and again in my clinic the amount of people that are suffering from chronic pain, are increasingly immobile, stiff and sick - and a huge amount of it can be traced back to a lack of daily stretching and mobility. 

Every animal in nature starts it's day stretching, as babies we stretch, constantly. There's a good reason for this. 

As such in the Navy SEAL warm up we bring the muscles and the joints lightly through full and increasing ranges of motion. Stretching them and preparing them to be used in every direction and manner possible.

However, again this is dynamic movement stretching to prepare the muscles, warm them, get blood and fluid moving through the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints - we aren't performing static stretches to increase the length of the muscles or connective tissue. We are simply stretching through light movement. PREPARING THE BODY, nothing more. 

3. Strength exercises (to overcome suspect resistance) 

Now...what if I told you that, no matter what it is you want to achieve, accomplish or experience, it fundamentally will come down to one thing – strength. Flexibility, health, speed, fitness – all of it is grounded in strength.

Contrary to many people's assertions, strength is pretty much the be-all and end-all of fitness. Let me take a few brief examples to make my point. If you want to be flexible, should you stretch? No, you shouldn't – stretching, as it is predominantly taught, stretches only tendons and ligaments - vital tissue you need to stay tight to maintain the structural integrity of the body. Instead, you need to develop strength. 

Your body will ONLY let you move to a point that its comfortable bringing you back from. The problem with most people is that they ARE NOT strong enough to go into a position, not that they aren't flexible enough. This is the cause behind conditions like frozen shoulder. Here's an interesting fact; when someone is conscious and wide awake, they can't move their arm in a full degree if it's frozen. However, knock that person out and you can move it right around no problem – the reason the shoulder is frozen is because it is WEAK! (Often this is due to a slight misalignment of the spine that prevents the muscle innervating). Another example is the splits. Everyone's muscles are long enough to do the splits; they just don't let you because you don't have strength in the muscles.

If you talk about your heart’s health and fitness, the ability to pump blood and oxygen around the body - that too comes down to strength - the heart is a muscle. The stronger you make it, more the efficient it becomes and the fitter you are - it always comes down to strength. Your aerobic capacity and lung volume are BOTH based in strength. 

If you want to be fitter, you must be stronger. If you want to be quicker, the only way to do this is to be stronger. Bigger muscles, no back pain, heart health, lung health, flexibility and weight loss – to achieve all of these things, you must become stronger.

Strength may be just one part of "fitness" but it is the basis, the very foundation for all other elements. Any factor of fitness you care to name or explore – the ONLY way it can develop is through strength. 

You need to be strong. Strength is everything to the military and Special Forces. Strong technique, strong mind, strong body. To carry your gear, to carry a wounded comrade to be able to strike and disable and opponent and to overcome resistance - all requires strength. 

4. Conflict Attack and Defence Preparation

All of the movements we use in the Navy SEAL warm up re-enforces 2 excellent key principles; the directions of attack and defence. There are limits to how many directions a human can attack and defend from.

  • Forward and Back
  • Up and Down (vertical)
  • Side to Side (horizontal) (Left to Right and Right to Left)
  • Diagonally (X) (right to left, left to right, and those directions reversed)
  • Circular (which is just a continuation of either a horizontal or diagonal movement)

That's it. They are the only directions you can attack and defend from. They are also the only ways a joint can move. 

Given the military background of this warm up sequence you can appreciate the importance of re-enforcing such critical information. Of course the methods of attack and defence devised by man correspond to the limitations of the human body; our joints can only move in certain directions. Once this is understood a comprehensive and effective warm up can be systematically applied from the Neck down

If you'd like to learn the complete Navy SEAL Warm up check out Samurai Strength Volume 3: Secrets of the Special Forces, available now. 

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