What is the Best Way to Warm-up Before a Workout?

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As young children, we’re taught that we need to warm-up before participating in physical activity.  I have fond memories of “circling up” with my soccer girls to partake in a series of dynamic stretches designed to loosen us up before a match.  But as adults, we’re often short on time, trying to fit in a workout between responsibilities at home and work. So, where can we cut corners and time? Skip the warm-up, right?

Absolutely not! We move less as adults than we do as children, and often in less diverse ways. It’s more important than any other time in our lives to make sure our muscles are adequately prepared for what they’ll experience during a workout.

Is warming up necessary?

In my opinion, yes.  While the research is mixed, I feel stronger and do more in a workout after a solid warm-up. The point of warming up before a workout is to get your joints and muscles comfortable with the movements you’ll be doing. And some studies have shown that going into an exercise “cold” can increase the chances of injury.

What is the best way to warm-up before a workout?

The most important thing to remember about the warm-up is that it’s not your workout.  Your warm-up should be designed to flex the kind of muscles that you’ll be using during the more intense part of your training. You should be spending at most 15 minutes completing your warm-up exercises, and you certainly shouldn’t feel fatigued after performing them. For most healthy, relatively active adults, the warm-up should be 5-10 minutes and gradually increase in intensity.

I like to begin a warm-up with a walk, light jog, row, or bike, then proceed into some dynamic movements that reflect what I’ll be working out that day. It’s generally recommended to shy away from holding longer static stretches before a workout as it has been shown to correlate with a decrease in muscle strength. So it may be best to save your favorite static stretching for the cooldown.

Just as people enjoy different workouts, everyone will do a bit of a different warm-up. There is no guideline set in stone for how to get your body prepared for training. As long as you’re listening, responding, and respecting your body’s movement, you’re on the right track.

Below are examples of the warm-ups I do before a leg day, upper body, and cardio workout. Since one goal of the warm-up is to increase in intensity gradually, the second round should have a bit more pace than the first.

Leg day warm-up

  • 400m row or 2 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill (If it’s raining and you don’t have access to equipment, a combination of jumping jacks, high knees, or butt kicks for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 2 minutes will do the trick)
  • 10 air squats
  • 15 light kettlebell swings
  • 10 glute bridges
  • Repeat 2X

Upper body warm-up

  • 400m row or 2 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill (If it’s raining and you don’t have access to equipment, a combination of jumping jacks, high knees, or butt kicks for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 2 minutes will do the trick)
  • 10 modified push-ups on knees
  • 15 band face pulls using a light resistance band (I’m obsessed with this resistance band set* right now.)
  • 30 second plank
  • Repeat 2X

Cardio warm-up

  • 400m row or 2 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill (If it’s raining and you don’t have access to equipment, a combination of jumping jacks, high knees, or butt kicks for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 2 minutes will do the trick)
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 10 walking hip openers
  • 10 glute bridges
  • Repeat 2X

I hope the warm-up ideas above show you how simple it can be to create a warm-up routine of your own. You are doing your muscles and body a favor when you take the time to get loosened up before a workout. Above all else, listen to your body and only transition into your working sets when you feel thoroughly warmed up and ready to get to work.

Do you have a go-to set of exercises you do to warm-up? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Disclaimer: Always consult with your physician before starting an exercise plan of any kind.

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