9 Fun And Effective Ways To Warm Up

Coming into the March Madness Final Four, all of you non-televised ballers have to be itching for some hoops.

You’re probably already walking around the house breaking in your new kicks or testing your mad hops and slapping anything that even reminds you of a hoop.

Well hold on Magic whatever-your-name-is, you don’t want to risk injury. Remember, warming up is important for optimized performance and safety.

All you other athletes and fitness geeks need to listen up too. Whether you’re preparing for game time or getting ready for a killer workout, starting cold is the easiest path to an underwhelming performance.

Coming into the March Madness Final Four, all of you non-televised ballers have to be itching for some hoops.

We all want to get right into the action dropping trey balls, picking pockets, and cleaning house all night, but your warm-up can mean the difference between playing the game and having game.

So make sure you try one of these 9 fresh and effective warm-up methods brought to you by the warm-up gurus and fitness freaks at Bodybuilding.com.

Warm ups are all about efficiency, so let’s cut to the chase: What do industry experts such as Joe Dowdell, CSCS; Jennifer Nicole Lee; Alicia Marie; and George Mitropetros recommend?

1. Keep It Dynamic

Joe Dowdell, CSCS, founder and CEO of Peak Performance, recommends starting with dynamic movements.

These include exercises such as the forward lunge, lateral squat, hand walk, or arm circles.

After that, move right into 3 sets of 15-yard linear skips. Follow that up with 3 sets of 15-yard Carioca to finish it off. Your body is now primed for workout performance!

2. Jump Around

Fitness author and expert Jennifer Nicole Lee says 5 consecutive minutes of jumping rope at a mild to brisk tempo is all you need.

When you long for a good workout but are short on time, a little jump rope session will get your heart rate and body temperature up, putting you smack-dab in the fat-burning zone.

If you can’t do the full 5 minutes at first, start with what you can do, and then build from there.

A little jump rope session will get your heart rate and body temperature up, putting you smack-dab in the fat-burning zone.

3. Tune It Up And Turn It Up

Fitness queen Alicia Marie wants you to set whatever your warm up is to music. She says this is a great way to place your mind on the right “track” for the workout ahead.

Use some “oldies but goodies,” like AC/DC’s Back in Black or Pharoahe Monch’s Simon Says for weight training, as well as some good R&B and hip hop for the cardio.

Rocky had “Gonna Fly Now” and “Eye of the Tiger”-what’s your theme song?

4. Alicia Marie’s Functional Balance Challenge

Try doing one warm-up set of a balance exercise that mimics the actual training exercises you’ll be doing.

Great examples include single-leg deadlifts with a dumbbell in the hand opposite the leg you’re standing on, or bent-over rows while standing on the flat side of a BOSU trainer.

Always try a warm-up set that uses the muscles you plan to work in a stabilizing way!

5. Back To The Jacks

George Mitropetros, trainer of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena star Nick Tarabay, has got a fun throwback warm-up that works the whole body – jumping jacks! Wait, those things we used to do as kids? You got it.

They work your legs, core, and heart at the same time. Depending on your access to equipment and goals, do a 5-to-10 minute warm-up followed by light stretching of the body parts on that day’s training log. Consider foam-rolling the specific areas to maximize their performance potential.

Remember, warm-ups are not intended to be part of the workouts. Break a brief sweat but don’t work so hard that you build up lactic acid; save your energy for the actual workout. Your tempo should be quick and to the point.

This promotes blood flow and readies your heart for more work. Imagine your body as a hot rod ready to do a quarter-mile drag at full power, but in order to fulfill that potential, you need to warm up those slicks and make them nice and sticky!

6. Swing Into Action

Using swinging movements is a great way to loosen up your muscles and joints so they are primed for handling heavy resistance.

Your muscles and joints are like rubber bands – they’ll snap when cold, but if warmed up, they’ll be resilient, responsive and flexible.

So for all you would-be “swingers,” check out these exercises to prepare for a great workout.

  • Arm Circles: 1 set of 10 reps, forwards, 1 set of 10 reps, backwards
  • Front to Back Leg Swings: 1 set of 10 reps, each leg
  • Cross-Body Leg Swings: 1 set of 10 reps, each leg)
  • Arm Swings: 1 set of 10 reps
  • Standing Gate-Openers While Walking: 2 sets of 15 yards
  • Straight Leg March: 2 sets of 15 yards

7. Animal Instincts

Animals have to ensure their bodies are in prime condition just to survive, so we decided to deliver some wild exercises brought to you by the beasts!

Pick three or four exercises that will use the muscles you plan to train and unleash your inner animal:

  • Crab Walk: 2 sets of 15 yards
  • Frog Jumps: 2 sets of 15 yards
  • Duck Walk: 2 sets of 15 yards
  • Bear Crawl: 2 sets of 15 yards
  • Bunny Box Jump: 2 sets of 15 yards
  • Lion’s Back Stretch: 1 set of 12 reps
  • Spider Crawl: 2 sets of 15 yards
  • Inchworm: 2 sets of 15 yards

8. Yoga And The World’s Greatest Stretch

The “world’s greatest stretch” is actually official name of this move, which exercises multiple muscles and involves numerous fluid movements.

It’s a great, quick warm up and flexibility enhancer.

If you’re looking for a stretch routine to really sync your mind, body and spirit in preparation for a big game or awesome workout, you can also check out many of the standard yoga positions to help you out.

Downward Facing Dog, Child’s Pose, Warrior Pose … these are just a few of the many unique and effective stretches yoga has to offer! Take 15 minutes and stretch for elastic excellence.

9. The Perfect Medicine For Your Warm-Up

We’ve all seen those medicine balls lying around the gym, receiving little but odd, passing stares. However, medicine balls are great for warming up.

We’ve provided a bunch of full-body medicine ball exercises for use as warm ups, but tons of other exercises can be done. There’s something for everyone.

Top 7 Medicine Ball Exercises

  • Rotational Twist: 1 set of 12 reps, each side
  • Cross-Body Chops: 1 set of 10 reps, each side
  • Full-Body Front Chop: 1 set of 12 reps
  • “Around the world”: 1 set of 10 reps, both directions
  • Push Press+Overhead Squat+Push-up: 1 set of 10 reps
  • Figure Eight: 1 set of 10 reps
  • Reverse Figure Eight: 1 set of 10 reps

We have been compiling a long list of our favorite warm-ups and wanted to share them with everyone. Please comment if you have any ideas you think should be added. We want to compile the biggest and best list possible for our coaches and coaches at CrossFit gyms all over!

Bucket Ball: Split the class up into two equal teams. Set up an orange Home Depot bucket and a paralette next to each other on either side of the gym. We taped two heavyweight wrist wraps together and use that as the ball-it is dense enough to travel well through space but not hard enough to bounce much or hurt anyone. Once the game begins, teammates scramble to get the ball into the orange bucket or thrown under the paralette. Scoring in the orange bucket gives a team 2 points and throwing the “ball” underneath the paralettes gives 1 point. PVC pipes as broomsticks are optional.

Everybody is it!- This game is SO FUN! We stole it from Professor Julie Jahn of Eastern Michigan University. In order to prepare for the game, you need to map out a small space relative to the amount of athletes about to play and make everything outside of that space into lava. Once the game begins, then everyone is it! If you are tagged by anyone then you have to drop and do 2 burpees to get back in the game. We cannot express in words how fun this is!

Everybody is it! The Zombie/Halloween Version: Exactly like the game above except when you’re tagged by someone else you become a zombie. Zombies cannot get back in the game but they CAN bear crawl or Army crawl around and tag others still actively in the game. This is way harder than it sounds and also a ton of fun.

The Dead Bug Game: This is another version of Everybody is it! except when you are tagged you have to go into a sort of hollow hold with your knees curled into your chest as and arms overhead. To get tagged back in another play has to come and tag your feet and your hands. Players reviving dead bugs cannot be tagged while in the process of revival. This was also stolen from Professor Julie Jahn.

Zip-Zap: This game is much less active but really great for a group of people who do not all know each other as it is a de-inhibitizer and gets the class having a ton of fun and laughs together. We usually throw this into the warm-up for about 2 minutes when there are 1 or more new athletes in the class as it usually makes them feel much more comfortable very quickly. Have the class form a large circle around one person who is in the middle. That person in the middle briefly explains the rules but DO NOT SPEND A TON OF TIME EXPLAINING THIS ONE. Let the class figure it out, that is part of the fun! The person in the middle points at someone in the circle and yells, “Zap!”. The person who is “zapped” has to drop immediately to get out of the way of the people to their left and right who each draw on each other and try to zap the other as fast as possible. If the “zapped” person doesn’t duck fast enough then they go in the middle. If they do drop fast enough then whichever person on their right or left “zapped” slower goes in the middle and snipers always go in the middle! Snipers are those individuals who are so tense that they zap even when they’re not supposed to. We love this game! Professor Julie Jahn also showed us this one.

The Pizza Game: This one might be in the LAST POST but it is definitely worth including again. Every person in class gets an Abmat (their “pizza). The “pizza” has to be held overhead similar to a tray and cannot be gripped in any way. Once the game begins, everyone runs around and tries to knock over everyone else’s pizza. A dropped pizza means you have to do 2 burpees or whatever else the coach decides will effectively warm the athletes for the day.

Hungry Hippos: Split the class up into two equal teams and create a small space of area for the game. Each team starts on an opposite end of the designated space and all of your gym’s medicine balls are in a pile in the middle. Once the game begins everyone crab walks as fast as possible to the medball pile where they grab a medball and place it in their lap. Once the medball is in their lap, the athletes have to crab walk to ball back to their end line where they can drop it off and cruise back to the middle to do it all over again. This one is sneaky hard and pretty taxing on triceps. Scores are the total of pounds moved to each side by a team in the allotted time. The team with the most pounds moved in that time wins!

Toilet tag: Play tag! When tagged that person has to sit in an at parallel squat position for 15 seconds in order to get back into the game.

Lumberjacks and Farmers: Divide your athletes into 2 teams. One team is the lumber jacks and the other team is the farmers. Set out cones, half sitting up and half laying down. On 3,2,1 go the farmers run around sitting up the cones and the lumber jacks knock them down. If all of the cones are either sitting up or all knocked over, then the losing team gets a 5 burpees penalty. Don’t let people guard areas or cones. This can be done with tabata style timing.

Garbage ball: Collect an assortment of balls, etc. and set a bunch of pieces all over your gym. Then divide your class into two teams and give each team half of the gym. On your signal the game will begin. The object of the game is to get all of the “trash” to the other team’s side. Coach yells pause at random times and whoever has more trash pays a penalty of sorts. Examples: 15 burpees, jumping jacks etc.

Duck walk tag: Play tag but members have to move around by duck walking. Let friends tag each other back in and rotate the tagger per game or at random times. Keep the time domain very short on this one. Maybe 1-2 minute increments will be perfect.

Rowling: Set up all your members on rowers and have them try to rowl a perfect strike! To get a perfect strike, athletes must use full pulls on the rower with no breaks in between pulls and land exactly on 100m. Add a 2 air squat penalty for every meter off due in between rounds. We have done this as a 5 round game with mandatory 5 pass-throughs and 5 inch works between rounds in addition to the air squats and it was awesome!

The “Junkyard Dog” warm-up, courtesy of Mike Burgener: Partner 2 sits on ground with legs extended and arms raised parallel to the ground. Partner 1 starts the warm-up by standing behind partner 2’s right arm and then hops over partner 1’s right arm, legs and then left arm. Partner 1 is always facing the way they are jumping. Those three jumps count as one rep. Partner 1 goes the opposite way for rep 2 and continues back and forth jumping over partner 1 for a total of 10 reps. Then, partner 1 goes into the plank position. Partner 2 jumps over partner 1 and then crawls under a total of 5 times. Once that is complete, partners switch and that finishes up the warm-up.

6 minute AMRAP: Have your athletes break up into partners. Partner 1 is stationed on one side of the gym and partner 2 is on the opposite side. The clock begins on your count and partner 1 does 6 Abmat sit-ups as quickly as possible while partner 2 holds a plank. Partner 2 is only allowed to come out of plank once they are tagged by partner 1 who has to run all the way across the gym upon completion of the sit-ups to tag in their partner.

The “Saturday Special”: We ran this warm-up every Saturday at our gym and people LOVED it! Break the athletes up into two teams and have them get into 2 lines. Write a list of dynamic exercises to warm the body and have them do them in relay-race fashion. For example, we usually have them do lunges, high knees, butt-kickers, crab walks, side shuffles, kariokes, etc. Once the athlete has crossed the gym doing that particular movement have them sprint back to tag their next teammate in line. This warm-up is awesome! Make sure to put the slow stuff such as lunges and Spider-Man lunges first as your athletes will likely get very into this warm-up and want to move through this at breakneck pace.

Dodgeball: Super fun, mildly sketchy and, at times, unsafe. Get soft balls if you are going to play-don’t use medballs. (Lol)

Invisible “Fran”: 21-15-9 of PVC Pullups and PVC Thrusters

“Bring Sally Up”: Go up when the song says “bring sally up” and down when the song says “bring sally down”. You can use pushups or sit-ups or air squats, etc.

“Roxanne”: Same idea as “Bring Sally Up” just a different song.

The Pizza Game: Give every athlete an Abmat and have them hold it overhead like a pizza. Then on your yell of “Go!” everyone can begin running around and trying to knock over everyone else’s pizzas. You can use a 5 burpee, air squat, push-up, sit-up, etc. penalty.

Squat, Squat Goose: Play “Duck, Duck Goose” but with every athlete holding the squat position.

Musical Medballs: Musical chairs but with medicine balls instead! If you want to get real crazy, make everyone travel around by frog hopping or duck walking.

Animal Crackers: Frog hop, bear crawl, crab walk, duck walk, leap frog, leap frog, inch worms and piggy backs.

Indian Run: Have everyone run a specific distance in a line. The last person in the line sprints to the front.

Follow the leader: You can do this in any fashion. You can play it like “Simon Says” and stand at the front of the class and lead them through a variety of movements or another fun way to play this is to have everyone start in a line right behind you. Start running around the gym doing whatever you have planned. Example: agility ladder, box jumps overs, box jumps, Frankenstein’s, lunges, butt kickers, high knees, etc.

If you are interested to see how some of these games look in real life, then please check out (and Like!) our Facebook and Instagram pages: https://www.facebook.com/RiseAthleticsMI OR http://instagram.com/RiseAthletics.FitWe post videos on there all the time of classes doing fun stuff that you might be able to use.

The warm-up is one of the most important elements of an exercise program. Here are 10 great warm-up exercises to use, from Meghan Jarvis, Australian Institute of Fitness QLD Course Crusader.

Warming up helps prevent injury, prepares the body for movement and ultimately enhances performance.

Here are 10 great warm-up ideas you can use in your workout.

1. The A-Skip

Step forward with right leg, and as right foot touches floor, push up onto ball of foot with a hop, bring left knee up to hip height and swing right arm forward. Lower left leg and repeat, alternating legs as you step-hop for 30 seconds.

2. Rotating Lunge

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding your arms fully extended in front of you at chest height with your hands together. Take a giant step forward with left leg, like you are moving into the lunge position. Hold, and rotate torso to left for 2 seconds. Rotate to centre and then stand back up. Repeat, alternating legs and rotation direction. This assists in building balance, stability and core strength.

3. Touch Down

Lie face up with arms out to sides. Raise right leg so it’s perpendicular to floor. Lower right leg across torso and touch floor on left side with right foot. Return to start; do 8 to 10 reps. Repeat with left leg. This movement warms inner and outer thighs, lower-back muscles and strengthens core.

4/5. Front to Back Leg Swings and Body Leg Swings

Using swinging movements is a great way to loosen up your lower body muscles and joints so they are primed for handling heavy resistance. It also mimics movements that a runner will be performing so is a great way to get the legs primed.

6/7. Skipping/Jump Rope and Jumping Jacks

Skipping and jumping jacks increase heart rate and ensure that the heart will start pumping more blood to the muscles, warming the entire body.

8. Imitate the Exercise Moves

You may also warm up by imitating the moves you are about to perform during your workout, just with minimal or no load, or less speed and range. For instance, if you are doing a lat pull down, select a very light weight, and do 15-20 reps, gradually increasing speed and range of movement.

9. One-Legged Balance Touches

Standing on your left leg, bend at the waist while keeping your back flat and hips pushed back. Reach down, and try to touch your left foot. Then raise your upper body to the starting position, but without touching your right foot to the floor. Repeat 8-10 times, before swapping sides. This is great for priming the nervous system for more complex moves, while warming up the lower body at the same time.

10. Try a Pre-Event Performance Massage

By engaging the muscle in some deep tissue massage you increase the fascia’s ability to retain water for up to 30 minutes, which helps improve strength during your workout.

If you love fitness, change your life and become a Personal Trainer with the Australian Institute of Fitness.

Try this energetic four-pose sequence three times on each side to warm up and protect your hips before you head to the barre.

Barre classes are a great way to tone and strengthen, head to toe. Those many reps of micro-movements at the ballet barre offer an intense challenge for your feet, calves, thighs, hips, butt, and abs. But the commonly used turned-out position (heels close together, toes pointed out) may also cause undue stress to joints like your knees and the sacroiliac joint that connects the low back to the hips—especially if your turnout is greater at the feet than the hips. Practicing yoga poses that encourage external rotation of the hips before barre will warm up tissues and joints and protect these vulnerable areas so you can plié and leg-lift safely. Try this energetic four-pose sequence three times on each side before you head to the barre.

Goddess Pose

Good for strengthening your thighs and improving hip mobility.

Stand with your feet wide, heels turned in, toes turned out. Lower into a squat by bending your knees, shifting your hips back and down as you bring your thighs almost parallel to the floor. Keep your torso straight. Gently align your knees over your ankles. Activate your pelvic-floor muscles and lift your lower belly. Press your hands together in front of your chest. Hold for 5 breaths.

See alsoAnatomy 101: Understand Your Hips to Build Stability

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The Quick Warm-Up Workout You Can Do Before Any Class

Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Some days, everything goes right with your workout: You build in enough time to do the perfect dynamic warm-up and your sweat session leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Other days? There’s barely enough time to schedule your favorite fitness classes before or after work, in between errands, or just around your busy life, let alone warm up for them.

But the truth is that exercising with cold muscles can throw off your form (upping your risk of injury). And without a proper warm-up, it’ll take your body longer to get going with your training session.

So for the days when you really have no time to warm up, consider these quick stretches and exercises your answer. They’ll fire up the muscles you need to power through essentially any workout and get blood and oxygen flowing throughout your body so you’re warmed up and ready to crush any goal (even if it’s just getting through HIIT class alive).

The best is that they are easy movements you’re already familiar with, so you can do them in the studio’s lobby, or outside-or heck, even in the line at the Target across the street (no judgment here).

Lateral Lunge

How to: Start with legs together and take a big step out to left. Reach hips back and drop down as if you’re sitting in a chair. Repeat 15 times on each side.

This move recruits the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fascia lata (your abductor muscles, which help rotate your leg at the hip joint). “These are the muscles in the hip and leg that allow you to balance and stabilize,” explains Michael Reyes, C.S.C.S., the personal training manager at Equinox Seaport in Boston. “If you are going into a class, it’s important to get these muscles firing so you can use proper form running, spinning, and weightlifting.”

Stationary Quad Stretch with Overhead Reach

How to: Keeping left foot planted, bring right foot back to meet right glute. Reach left hand to ceiling. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on other side.

On top of increasing flexibility and stability, the added overhead reach to the traditional quad stretch releases your entire upper and side body, says Kelly Whittaker, C.S.C.S., a spin instructor at B/SPOKE Studios in Boston. “Quads are also crucial to exercise, so stretching them pre-workout helps increase flexibility and prevent injury.” (Women can often be quad dominant, which can create muscle imbalances. Here, Anna Victoria shares her eight essential exercises to help restore that balance in your body.)

Knee Raise

How to: Stand tall and lift one knee above hip and alternate in a running format for 15 reps.

Knee raises are a great way to boost the strength and endurance of your hip flexor muscles, says Reyes. “These muscles lift the knees and prevent plodding in running or overuse of the knee in a biking motion.” (Related: What to Do When Your Hip Flexors Are Sore AF)

Wall Push

How to: Start with hands against a wall in a slightly downward position with a slight bend in both knees. Push as hard as you can for a count of 15 seconds. Brace core and do not allow stomach to bend in. (Think of a plank against a wall.)

“This will allow you to get a nice stretch and turn that core on instantly,” says Reyes. “This also stretches the hamstrings to get you ready for a full range of motion in any exercise that a group fitness class will throw at you.”

Hot Barre Classes

Hot Barre

Barre classes typically focus on small, pulsing movements with emphasis on form, alignment and core engagement. Barre Classes begin with a warm up focusing on postural strength and alignment, followed by a series of upper body exercises using light weights. The ballet barre is used to sculpt the lower body, abs and for flexibility training. The heat allows increased blood flow. Over time, your body will adapt, become more responsive to demands of workouts and competitive events through earlier sweating and increased circulation.

Hot Bootybarre

Bootybarre is a fun, energetic, workout that fuses techniques from Dance, Pilates, and Yoga that will tone, define and chisel the whole body. Bootybarre is the perfect combination of strength and flexibility with an added cardiovascular element utilizing the barre. This class is heated allowing increased blood flow. Over time, your body will adapt, become more responsive to demands of workouts and competitive events through earlier sweating and increased circulation.

It’s hard enough to overcome the lure of a cozy bed for an early a.m. run or to squeeze in a 4-miler after work. But on top of it, we constantly hear that we should tack on a 20-minute warmup, too. The reality is that’s not happening: A recent poll of Runner’s World Instagram followers confirmed that most—er, 75 percent—forgo a proper prerun warmup routine. So does doing one actually benefit your run that much?

Sure looks that way, according to a study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics. Researchers split a group of 36 athletes into three groups: those who did a 20-minute bicycling warmup before performing weighted lunges, those who only did a cool-down, and those who did neither. Everyone was given a pain threshold test on the two days following to determine muscle soreness, and guess what? The group who warmed up had the highest pain threshold and reported relatively ache-free muscles.

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There’s a big difference between that bicycling warmup and simply taking it slow the first mile into your run, too, says Katie Dundas, a doctor of physical therapy at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Both cycling and running keep blood moving to bigger muscles in the legs, which is important in a warmup, but the cycling also provides a dynamic stretch to the hamstrings and quadriceps,” she says. “A light jog doesn’t offer that same stretch and response movement.”

So if there’s no question that a warmup gives you bonus benefits, the real Q becomes: “How long do I need to actually do it for?” And it’s a good-news answer: Warming up for just 10 minutes may work as well as a session lasting 20 minutes or more, so long as that time is spent on focused, dynamic movement. A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that when scientists analyzed velocity, heart rate, oxygen intake, and rate of perceived exertion in endurance runners, they noted no significant differences in most categories between the two protocols.

In fact, Dundas says, you can halve that quota if really necessary. “An abbreviated version of five minutes of dynamic stretching still provides what you need to help prevent injury.”

That may be the most important reason to warm up. As we age, muscle elasticity decreases, and Dundas says warming up properly expands your range of motion to help counteract those deficits. So here’s a super quick and easy five-minute prerun warmup you can use before every run.

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How to use this list: These six dynamic moves from Dundas are demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World+ Run Coach, so you can learn the proper form. Perform each for 30 seconds to one minute at the start of every run. Then consider your running engine officially revved.

Quad + Piriformis Walk

Targets: Quads, glutes, piriformis

Start standing then draw left foot up behind you, pulling toward your butt for a quad stretch. Release and step forward; switch legs. After 30 seconds, cradle right leg at ankle and knee, pulling up to chest. Release and step forward; switch legs. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Hip Opener

Targets: Deep hip external rotators

From standing, bend right knee and lift knee to hip level, then rotate the knee out to 90 degrees. (Place hand over knee to stabilize and guide if needed.) Bring leg back to front; lower foot, and switch sides. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Arm Circles

Targets: Chest, deltoids, upper back

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and lift arms out to shoulder height, palms down. Make small circles; after 30 seconds, switch direction. Continue for another 30 seconds.

Frankenstein Walk

Targets: Hamstrings

Start standing with feet together. Extend right leg straight out in front of you as you bring left hand to tap right toes. Lower leg and step forward; repeat on opposite side. Continue for 30 seconds.

Leg Crossover + Scorpion

Targets: Lower back, hamstrings, hip flexors

Lie faceup, legs straight and arms out. Lift right leg up and across your body, tapping foot to the floor. Return to start; repeat on other side. After 30 seconds, flip over to lie facedown and perform a Scorpion.

Lie facedown. Draw left leg up and cross it over your body so that left foot is nearly in line with right hip. Hold for a breath or two, then return to start. Repeat on other side and continue to alternate for 30 seconds.

Inchworm

Targets: Core, deltoids, hamstrings

From standing, bend forward at the waist to touch toes, then walk hands out to a high plank. Hold for 2 seconds; walk feet to meet hands. Roll up to starting position. Repeat for 1 minute.

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Which warm-up routine best describes you?

  • A few light sets of the first exercise
  • A quick jog on the treadmill
  • A handful of stretches to ‘loosen up’

These are random examples, but you get the idea – warming up before lifting weights is both varied and more often than not, unspecific to the workout.

Now, you may be thinking “who cares”. Warming up is just the fluff before the real work, right?

Well, what if I were to tell you that warming up before lifting can be the defining factor between crushing your workout and simply going through the motions?

Here’s why.

Why warming up before lifting matters

When you enter the gym, your body is not prepared for exercise. Walk from your office straight to the squat rack and you can be sure of the following:

· Stiff hips that refuse to descend even close to parallel.

· Lack of muscular tension.

· Poor coordination.

· Weights will feel heavy as shit.

But, if you spent just 10 minutes oiling up the joints and firing up key muscles, those squats would be a different story. They would look better, feel better and you would be sure to lift heavier loads.

When the warm up before lifting is done right, you’ll:

  • Unlock mobility
  • Improve body control
  • Ignite more powerful muscle contractions.

And that’s going to transfer to a better workout.

It helps to think of the warm-up as ‘movement preparation’. That is what you’re doing. You’ll prepare your body for the movements you’ve planned. It’ll get your body into an optimal physical state. It’ll be primed and ready to crush the workout and avoid potential injury.

But how to go about it?

The 5-Step Warm-up before lifting

This warm-up sequence includes 4 (or 5) steps and takes around 10 minutes to perform.

Step 1: Light Aerobic Work

Light aerobic work increases the heart rate and raises core temperature. Warm muscles are more supple. So you are less likely to pick up soft tissue injury. And you’ll respond better to the dynamic stretching in step 3.

How It’s Done

3-5 minutes of cardio activity, preferably repetitive in nature: jog on a treadmill, elliptical, bike, rower, skipping…whichever you prefer. If you run or cycle to the gym and are already ‘warm’, feel free to skip this step.

Step 2: Soft Tissue Release (Optional)

This step is my no means mandatory but if you have tight muscles and struggle with mobility, soft tissue release can help. It’s a very effective method to reduce muscle tension. This can immediately improve range of motion. It also prepares muscles for stretching.

How it’s done

The foam roller is a great tool. But to release more precise areas of tension, it’s worth getting your hands on a tennis ball or something similar. This will fit the contours of your body better.

Pick 1-2 body parts and apply release techniques for 60-90 seconds per body part.

3 quick tips to foam roll more effectively

  • Go very slow.
  • Go against the grain of the muscles not just up and down.
  • Hold static pressure on those exquisitely tender areas.

For best results, focus on muscles that tend to be short and tight. The main culprits across the anatomy are:

  • Lower Body
  • Hip Flexors
  • Adductors
  • Lateral Hip Group
  • Upper Body
  • Pectoralis Group
  • Lats

Step 3: Dynamic Stretching

Before diving in, a quick word on static stretching (when you hold a stretch in a set position for a set amount of time). Here’s what we actually know: static stretching for less than 30 seconds has no negative impact on performance – but it doesn’t improve performance either.

Static stretching for more than 60 seconds does negatively impact performance (namely, it reduces power output). Given that it ‘may’ negatively impact performance and definitely does not improve performance, static stretching has no place in a warm up (Kay & Blazevich, MSSE, 2012).

Dynamic stretching on the other hand does improve performance. It gives you greater power output (Behm & Chaouachi, EJAP, 2011). It also does a great job to unlock mobility as it reduces tension in the surrounding soft tissues.

Pick 3-5 movements and perform 10 reps of each. Focus on the joints that are key players in the exercises you have planned.

As a general guideline, here are 3 dynamic stretches for the lower and upper body that pretty much everyone can benefit from:

Lower Body

Adductors

Hip Flexor

Upper Body

Pecs

Lats

T Spine

Step 4: Joint Preparation

CARs (controlled articular rotations) are a mobility exercise that involve isolating a joint and actively moving it through its full range of motion.

This is going to engage all the surrounding muscles as they work together to coordinate the motion – great for enhancing motor control. This action is also going to siphon blood to the joint and stimulate the release of synovial fluid. All in all, this promotes smooth, efficient and coordinated motion.

Upper body day? Perform shoulder CARs. 2 Reps.

Lower body day? Perform hip CARs. 2 Reps.

Step 5: Targeted Muscle Activation

The purpose of this phase is to fire up key stabilising muscles. Examples are the rotator cuff in the shoulder for the upper body and the gluteal group (the butt in other words) for the lower body.

The activation drills you pick should match up with the main lift you have that day. They should target the key stabilisers and/or prime movers.

Pick 1-2 exercises and perform 2 sets of 8-15 reps with a 30-45 second rest between sets. (Pick a rep count that works the muscles but don’t go to failure.)

This will clean up energy leaks, improve movement quality and increase strength.

For example, before squatting, you can perform one move for the stabilisers (such as x-band walks for the hip abductors) and one for a prime mover (such as glute bridges for the gluteus maximus).

There are many exercise options and to choose from. So it’s best to experiment and be keenly aware of how your main lift feels afterwards. Everyone will respond differently.

Whichever you choose, be a stickler for pristine form and focus your mind on the muscles being targeted. Yes, that mind-muscle connection matters if you want a strong transfer your lifts!

Here are two of my favourite activation drills, one for lower body and one for the upper:

Facepulls

Foam Roller Glute Bridges

Wrapping up the warm-up

To show you just how simple all the warming up before lifting is in practice, here’s a sample routine before a squat focussed lower body session:

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

What’s the Ideal Warm-Up?

Every warm-up will be different, depending on your fitness level and the goal of your workout. But as a jumping off point, start with these four basic goals for every warm-up, as outlined by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

1. Loosen up

Warm your joints, muscles, and prep your body for exercise with mobility movements. If you’ve got one, now is also a great time for foam rolling. Start by rolling your back, then hit every section of the legs, glutes, and hip flexors.

2. Get your heart pumping

Increased heart thumping warms up your muscles and switches on your nervous system. Jog, slowly row, or ride a bike on low resistance. Just be sure you’re able to converse with your workout buddy (or sing along to your Spotify playlist).

3. Do some dynamic stretches

Stretch your warm muscles, but don’t hold it. Remember: Static stretching during a warm-up can actually hinder your performance.

Instead, do dynamic stretching, which involves continuously moving through a range of motion. For instance, you can make big arm circles in both directions, kick your legs forward, or simply touch your toes and then reach for the sky. The key is to not hold in any position.

4. Practice

Move through the exercises planned for that day’s workout at a lower intensity. Have a long, hard run ahead? Warm up with a few technique drills. Back squats? Start with bodyweight squats or by holding an empty bar. Practicing the movement patterns teaches muscle memory (a.k.a. neuromuscular adaptation) and continues to prepare your body for action.

There’s no limit to the variety of warm-up moves that can get you game-ready, and changing things up is always a fun (and often effective) approach. Here are two of our favorite warm-ups:

  • Full-Body Dynamic Warm-Up from Bodeefit
  • 3-Minute Warm-Up Perfect for Any Workout

Find an enjoyable warm-up and remember to listen to your body’s cues. Your warm-up should not fatigue you. After all, it’s only one aspect of the workout. And don’t forget to cool down at the end.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and core engaged. Hinge forward at the hip and place both hands on the floor.
  • Keeping core engaged, and legs straight, walk hands forward one at a time to come into a high plank position.
  • Lift right hand to tap left shoulder, then left hand to tap right shoulder, while keeping core engaged and hips as stable as possible.
  • Walk hands back to feet, and stand to return to starting position.

Hip Opener to Low-Lunge Twist

x 30 seconds alternating sides

Katie Thompson

  • From a high plank position, with core engaged, swing right foot forward to land lightly on the outside of your right hand. Gently rock forward and back or side to side to feel hip open.
  • Shift weight into your left hand, then open right hand to the ceiling, twisting rib cage to the right, while maintaining stable hips.
  • Lower right hand, step right foot back into a high plank position, and repeat on the other side.

Rest for 60 seconds. Do the circuit 2 times.

Top image: Photographer: Jacqueline Harriet. Hair: Jerome Cultrera at L’Atelier. Makeup: Deanna Melluso at See Management. Stylist: Herin Choi. Trainer Amy Eisinger is wearing Lululemon Free to Be Moved bra, $68, lululemon.com; Alala Edge Ankle Tight, $115, alala.com; Adidas Ultra Boost shoes, $180, similar styles at adidas.com.

The 5-Minute Warm-Up You Need Before Any Workout

You know you need to warm up before pretty much every single workout—but how often do you actually do it? (And, no, walking on the treadmill for five minutes doesn’t count.) It’s important to do a total-body warm up to get blood flowing to your muscles before you go hard, as it helps decrease the risk of overuse injuries and addresses underlying muscle imbalances while enhancing the quality of your movements, according to trainer and exercise science professor Jessica Matthews.

That’s why we snagged Nike Master trainer Traci Copeland for this #FitnessFriday, and asked her to show us a workout warm-up that’s perfect before anything, whether it be Spinning, boxing, or lifting heavy weights. Even better? You can crush it in five minutes flat. Complete the seven moves below for the time alloted, then go tackle your workout, knowing that your body is ~ready~.

Jump Rope: 30 seconds

Start with a regular two-footed jump, and as you get warm you can play around with other jump styles. (Here are some jump rope moves from Copeland that keep your feet guessing.)

Alternating Knee Hugs: 30 seconds

Stand with feet hip-width apart and pull one knee into chest. Keep shoulders back and core tight. Repeat, alternating sides. After a few repetitions on each side, repeat the motion but come onto the ball of the standing leg.

Alternating Hamstring Stretch: 30 seconds

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Extend one leg straight in front, foot flexed and heel resting on the floor. Bend down to stretch hamstrings while sweeping arms down by outstretched foot and up over head. Repeat alternating sides. (You can do these in place, or while walking, if you have enough room.)

Walk-Out Planks: 45 seconds

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend down to put palms on the floor, and walk hands forward until reaching a high plank position. Then walk hands back towards feet and return to standing. Repeat.

Inner Thigh Stretch: 30 seconds

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend the right knee, shift weight to the right, and place hands on right knee to stretch inner thigh muscles in left leg. Switch sides; repeat.

Butt Kicks: 30 seconds

High Knees: 30 seconds

In this quick warm up video we get you prepped and ready to start any workout you choose in just over 5 minutes. We focus on the entire body so this video works equally well as a set up to an upper body routine as it does a lower body routine. You can even use it as pre-yoga or Pilates video to make sure your body is sufficiently warm so you can go directly into more intense stretches and holds.

We try to keep our warm ups as quick as possible because we know that everyone wants to get on with their real workout but be sure you give these often ignored routines the respect they deserve as they play a very important role in an overall well balanced workout. Though you may not want to give a warm up your full attention or might want to skip it all together, keep this in mind; when you take the time to properly increase your core temperature, get blood flowing at capacity to all your extremities, and limber your joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, it actually makes your overall workout more efficient. If your body is already up to speed when you ask it to start a demanding workout, there is no lag time between the first move and you burning as many calories as you can.

When you try to start cold, your range of motion will be limited, your endurance will be limited, and your maximum energy output will be limited until your body can hit its ideal working conditions. It doesn’t take long for your body to hit its desired working conditions but when you are doing very challenging movements this could drastically decrease your performance for 5 to 10 minutes.

Lets say you don’t care about getting a more efficient workout, burning more calories, or making more progress with the time you put in to each routine, even with these circumstances there is still a very good reason you will still want to dedicate time to a proper warm up; injury prevention. If you have been exercising for any time at all you have most likely already heard this but, just to say it again, taking the time to properly prepare your body for exercise can greatly decrease your chances of preventable injury. After all, the time you would save by not doing a warm up is nothing compared to the days, weeks or even months you could be out due to a pulled muscle or torn ligament all because you were in a hurry and your body wasn’t ready for activity yet. Do yourself and your goals a favor and be sure to always get in a total body warm up or at the least a warm up specific to the muscles and joints you will be using with that days routine.

Workout Structure:
Do the following 10 exercises for 30 seconds each, 1 set through. Move from one exercise to the next without stopping to rest.

Push Pull
High Knee March
Arm Circles
Deep Squat
Arm and Hip Rotations
Fluid Warrior
Torso Rotations
Up and Outs
Boxer Shuffle
Jumping Jacks

Quick warm up exercises

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