You’re already running late but you want to get in a workout before you head home. Probably no big deal to skip the warm-up and jump right into your workout, right?
Not a good idea.
Warming up might not be the most fun part of your workout, but it’s absolutely necessary. Think of your body like one of those older cars in winter.
You need to start the car up and let it run for a few minutes before you can drive to your destination. Well, your body works the same way.
You wouldn’t want to jump into a workout without preparing your body for the workload, and that’s exactly what a warm-up does.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of warming up. We’ll also cover the best warm-up exercises to do before a workout so you can optimize performance and recovery.
Benefits of Warming Up Before Exercise
There are several key benefits to taking the time to warm-up before your workout.
Increases Your Body Temperature: Warming up increases your body temperature, preparing the muscles and joints for whatever is on your agenda that day.
Boosts Blood Flow: Continuing with the point above, warming up helps to increase blood flow throughout the body, ensuring the muscle cells have access to oxygen and nutrients.
Lubricates Your Joints: We often don’t think too much about our joints during a workout – the muscle tissue is usually the star of the show. But you need to prepare your joints just as much as you do your muscle tissue for a workout. If you don’t, you can cause a strain or tear in connective tissue, which takes 290 days on average to heal. Compare that to the 90-day healing period for muscle.
Optimizes Range of Motion: With your blood flowing, your muscles warm, and your joints lubricated, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your range of motion during workouts.
Prevents Injury: Finally, I believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest that warming up also helps to prevent strain or injury.
Best Type of Warm-Up Before a Workout
Surprisingly, static stretching (holding the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds) is not the best type of warm-up before a workout.
Studies show that the ideal way to warm up before the workout is with a dynamic warm-up and stretching.
This is when you perform movements that mimic the exercises in your workout.
For example, if you plan on doing barbell back squats , appropriate dynamic warm-up exercises would be bodyweight squats and leg swings.
Studies show that this type of warm-up helps to prepare the muscles without decreasing strength and performance. Some studies suggest that static stretching can actually take away from your intra-workout strength and performance.
That’s why you’ll want to save static stretching for the end of the workout.
Best Dynamic Warm-up Exercises
Here are the dynamic warm-up exercises we would recommend using based on whether you’re performing upper body, lower body, or total body exercises during the workout.
Upper Body Warm-Up Exercises
- Arm Circles
- Scapular Push-Up
- Resistance Band Pull Apart (Low Intensity)
- Side-to-Side Twists
- Downward Dog
- Band Pull Apart to Dislocate
Lower Body Warm-Up Exercises
- Hip Hinges
- Hip Circles
- Back Pedaling
- Bodyweight Squats
- Bodyweight Lunges
- Butt Kicks
- Leg Swings
- Side Shuffles
- Knee Squeeze with Glute Bridge
- Hip Flexor Wave
- Squat to Toe Touch
- Cossack Squat
- Heel-to-Groin-to-Heel-to-Butt Lift
Total Body Warm-Up Exercises
- Toy Soldiers
- Jumping Jacks
- Jump Rope / Double Unders
- Bear Crawls
- Walking Knee Hugs
- Standing Full Body Twist
- Groiner Thoracic Twist
How Long Should a Warm-up Last?
Your warm-up doesn’t need to last as long as your workout.
I’d recommend spending around 10 minutes on warming up and performance dynamic stretching.
This is the optimal time for you to trigger all of the benefits mentioned above.
After your workout, you can perform cool-down exercises and static stretching.
Ten-Minute Stretch Warm-Up
Here’s an example of a total body ten-minute warm-up that you can do during your next workout.
And if you want a step-by-step breakdown, we recorded a warm-up video that you can follow. Perform two sets of each stretch.
Knee Squeeze with Glute Bridge: 10 repetitions
- Use either a foam roller, yoga block, or Gridiron ball, and hold the Knee Squeeze for 10 seconds then perform a Glute Bridges.
Standing Full Body Twist: 12 repetitions
- Imagine throwing a hook but with a loose and relaxed body.
Groiner: 5 repetitions (on each side)
- This is like a Mountain Climber exercise but with feet to the outside.
Groiner Thoracic Twist: 5 repetitions (on each side)
- Similar to the exercise above, but now you’ll incorporate a side twist as you look toward the ceiling.
Hip Flexor Wave: 6 repetitions (on each side)
- Start in a kneeling lunge position and gently look behind you as you extend your hand above.
Squat to Toe Touch: 6 repetitions (on each side)
- Perform a basic bodyweight squat and touch your toes as you reach the bottom of the movement.
Cossack Squat: 5 repetitions (on each side)
- Perform a half squat, leaning to one side and turning the toes up on the extended leg.
Heel-to-Groin-to-Heel-to-Butt Lift: 4 repetitions (on each side)
- Standing on one leg, move your foot to the front of your body and then behind.
Band Pull Apart to Dislocate: 8 repetitions
- Pull a resistance band in the front of your body then flip it to the other side and repeat.
- Harvey L, Herbert R, Crosbie J. Does stretching induce lasting increases in joint ROM? A systematic review. Physiother Res Int. 2002;7(1):1-13.
- Andersen JC. Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk. Journal of Athletic Training. 2005;40(3):218-220.
- Witvrouw E, Mahieu N, Danneels L, McNair P. Stretching and injury prevention: an obscure relationship. Sports Med. 2004;34(7):443-9.