Warming up is a vital part of working out. A good warm up can make the difference between a bad workout and a great one. Yet even the best of us are inclined to skip it or do such a rushed and poorly executed warm-up that it often just wasn’t worth the effort.
Warm-ups should be comprehensive. But they can also be ultra efficient. We combine both. So here’s how to do a time-efficient, full-body warm-up.
How to Warm Up
A good warm up should contain several different elements:
- Pulse raiser to get your blood pumping and raise your core temperature slightly.
- Joint mobility to ensure your joints are limber and properly lubricated.
- Dynamic stretches to prepare your muscles for the workout to follow.
- Movement prep to activate typically inhibited muscles ensuring they are firing properly e.g. hip bridges for glutes.
- Ramped practice sets to ensure your technique is solid and ease gradually into your main workout e.g. light sets of your chosen exercise or fast jogging before running.
In-depth: How to warm-up before exercise
It might look like a lot or work, but some elements somewhat overlap and can be combined, such as the pulse raiser, joint mobility and dynamic stretches. Moving briskly from one dynamic stretch to the next will raise your core temperature and breathing rate and most dynamic stretches involve an element of joint mobility.
Warming-up will make your workouts more effective and may reduce your risk of injury, potentially saving you months of lost time.12
This full-body dynamic warm-up shouldn’t take much more than 10 minutes, and will help prepare all your major joints and muscles for strength training. (If you’re heading out for a run, check out how to warm-up before running.)
How to: Perform one set of 10 to 20-repetitions of each exercise, unless otherwise instructed. If you are feeling particularly cold, stiff or sore, repeat the sequence once or twice more – or do more repetitions of the most relevant exercises for your strength training workout.
Start off with small movements and increase the range of movement over the duration of the set.
1 Curl and Press
Target area: Shoulders, elbows.
(Perform without weights)
- Stand with your feet together and hands by your sides.
- Bend your arms and raise your hands to shoulder-level and then raise your arms above your head – reach up as high as you can.
- Lower your hands back to your shoulders and then to your sides.
- Keep your shoulders down and back throughout and avoid leaning back.
2 Arm Circles
Target area: Shoulders.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, with your arm extended by your sides. Slowly, and with control, gently swing your arms forward in a circular motion.
- Start with smaller circles and work your way to making bigger circles. Repeat in the opposite direction.
3 Wrist Circles
Target area: Wrists.
- Extend your arms in front of you at shoulder-height.
- Keep your arms straight and gently circle your wrists, starting with small circles and progressing to bigger circles, inward and then outward.
4 Side Bends
Target area: Waist and spine.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your sides. Lean to the left and reach down the outside of your leg. Return to the center and then lean to the right.
- Return to the center and then lean to the right. Do not twist your hips or shoulders.
5 Torso Twists
Target area: Waist and spine.
- Stand with your feet ship-width apart and your hands on your hips (or raise arms straight in front of you with hands clasped together).
- Keep your hips still and twist your shoulders to the left and then to the right. Lead with your chin and try to look behind you.
- Do not use your arms to generate extra momentum – perform this exercise smoothly and with control!
6 Step Overs
Target area: Hips.
- Imagine you are standing side on to a knee-high hurdle.
- Step sideways and over the hurdle and then back again. Lead with your knees and turn your leading leg outward as you step.
- Keep your torso upright to ensure the movement comes from your hips and not your spine.
7 Leg Swings
Target area: Hips and hamstrings.
- Stand next a wall and rest one hand on it for balance. Swing your left leg forward and up so it is roughly parallel to the floor and then do the same thing with your right leg.
- Do a little “three step shuffle” between swings to ensure your transition from left to right is smooth.
- Keep your torso upright, your upper body relaxed and your supporting foot flat on the floor. A slight bend in the knee is acceptable as is swinging your opposite arm.
8 Spiderman Stretch (with Rotation)
Target area: Hips, adductors, glutes plus core and shoulders.
- Get into the pushup position with your arms straight, shoulders over your hands, legs extended and core braced tightly.
- Bend your left leg and bring your foot up to the outside of your left hand. Your shin should be vertical and your foot flat on the floor. Drop your hips slightly to increase the stretch.
- (Optional: Laterally raise your left arm to reach straight up to the ceiling. Gaze toward the ceiling, in line with your extended arm, as illustrated above.)
- Without pausing, return back to the push-up position and repeat the same movement on your opposite side.
- Continue alternating sides for the duration of your set.
- Complete 10 to 20 reps each side if doing leg only stretch, or 6 to 8 reps if performing with torso rotation.
9 Downward Dog Heel Pedal
Target area: Ankles and calves.
- From the end position in the previous exercise, lift your hips so your body resembles an inverted V.
- Pump your ankles and alternately lower your heels toward the floor to mobilize your ankles and stretch your calves.
10 Squat Stretch
Target area: Knees, hips, adductors, hamstrings, glutes.
- Part 1: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, your feet turned slightly outward and your hands clasped together in front of your chest with your elbows pushed outward.
- Squat down by pushing your hips back just before you bend your knees. Squat as deeply as you comfortably can while remembering to keep your chest up and your knees roughly aligned with your feet.
- Part 2: At the bottom of your fifth rep, stay in the squat position and use your elbows to push your knees outward a little more. Hold this position for five seconds and then stand up.
- Do another five squats and hold the last rep for a further five seconds.
- Do four sets to total 20 squats and four holds. You should find your squats get deeper and smoother as your set progresses.