If you’ve been exercising around other fitness enthusiasts, it is possible you’ve seen many of them stretch their legs, arms or hips before exercising.
Probably, in your thoughts, they’ve been wasting a lot of time and energy they need to perform more reps or exercise for longer hours.
Here is everything you need to know about warming up before workouts, why it so important and the best warm-up exercises to include in your workout routine.
What Are Warm Up Exercises?
Warm up exercises can be defined as less intense activities you are required to perform before engaging in vigorous workouts or sports.
They are intended to prepare your body for a high-intensity fitness session by increasing your circulation and heart rate, loosening your joints and most importantly, increasing the flow of blood to your muscles.
These processes will, in turn, prepare you both mentally and physically for a vigorous workout or sport with limited injury risks.
1. Increase The Temperature in Your Entire Body
It easy to tear a muscle when performing exercises that force you to contract and relax your muscles faster and with much force. Fortunately, this will only happen if your muscles are stiff.
Starting your workout routine with the lightest warm up exercises will increase the temperatures within your muscles.
In turn, this will increase your muscle strength and speed when exercising while at the same time preventing the injuries such as pulls and strains.
Also, the temperature increase in your entire body will increase the elasticity of your muscles making it easy for you to stretch.
2. Increase Flow of Fluids to Your Joints
Highly intensive exercises such as lifting heavy weights and long-distance running can strain your joints increasing the risks of injuries.
Fitness trainers recommend warming up simply because of how it impacts your bones and joints which are two of the main areas in your body that are susceptible to injuries.
Warming up before starting your exercises improves the flow of fluids to your joints reducing the locking and corrosion that are common when your bones rub against one another.
Also, it helps enhance the range of motion making it easy for you to engage in a variety of complicated and strenuous exercises that requires a lot of flexibility.
3. Improved Circulation
In addition to preparing your muscles for more intensive workouts, warming up before exercising also enhances the circulation in your body. Better flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body will help maintain your blood pressure at right levels as well as improve the motion of your limbs.
Due to this, you will be able to exercise more intensively and for many hours. Also, it will help improve the absorption of the fluids by your muscles when working out preventing muscle soreness and more.
4. Improved Muscle Endurance
Without warmed up muscles, you will get tired much faster. Reason being, your muscles won’t have the amount of oxygen needed for them to keep lifting heavy weights or moving faster making it almost impossible for you to exercise for longer hours.
One fact is, depending on how you’ve been exercising, your muscles can get you through your session, but you won’t be able to run faster, lift more reps or exercise for longer hours.
Probably, you will start to feel pain in your muscles after some few minutes. By improving the circulation of oxygen and blood throughout your body, warming up before exercising will increase your muscle endurance as well as keep the fatigue away.
It is no secret that warming up will boost your workouts. But just like exercising, warming up with less caution has its flaws. It might not only interfere with your workout progress but may also increase the risks of injuries.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Warming Up
Performing Too Many Repetitions
Warming up exercises are intended to prepare your body for a particular exercise. By warming up, you are telling your body to get ready for a particular load or range of motion it will be required to achieve while performing your regular exercises. In short, warming up is like rehearsing for proper technique.
If you do many repetitions while warming up, your lactate levels will go up decreasing your strength. Also, performing many reps will increase the risks of injuries. So, avoid too many repetitions.
Static Stretching Before Your Main Workouts
Even though static stretching is the most efficient way to improve your flexibility, it is never a good idea to performing it before your main exercises.
Several studies have shown that static workouts can negatively interfere with your athletic or workout performance.
What happens is that they prevent you from achieving your maximum muscle strength and power by approximately ten to 30 percent.
Experts advise that you perform dynamic stretching instead. Reason being, dynamic stretching has been shown to improve the performance of the nervous system preparing you for an activity ahead.
Ballistic Stretching Before Your Workouts
Ballistic stretching is very popular nowadays. It is simply another form of dynamic stretching that requires you to perform bouncing movements while in a stretched position.
Ballistic stretching is intended to help you achieve a deeper range of motion even when your muscles are not yet relaxed enough.
Most fitness experts will advise this stretching for workout fanatics who are dying to achieve splits within a limited time. Even though it has worked for many, it is never a good idea to include them in your warm up routine.
Five Different Types of Warm Up Exercises
1. General Warm Up
These are warm up exercises that can work for anyone regardless of their sports. Most of these exercises aim at increasing the blood flow to your muscles as well as other tissues in your body.
The primary purpose of these type of warm-up exercises is to prepare your body and help reduce the risks such as damages that might occur to your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.
Unlike many other warm up exercises that will be mentioned later, these warm up workouts should not take a lot of time. Five to ten minutes is just enough. Examples of these exercises include slow jogging, calf raises and more.
2. Static Stretching
Static stretching can be defined as a stretch you perform while your body is at rest. When performing a static stretch, you are required to stretch to your maximum and stay in that position for some few seconds or even a minute.
Most experts say that static stretching isn’t a good idea when you are starting your workouts or after a warm up.
Reason being, static stretches are better performed when the temperature in your muscles have reduced and when your body is fully relaxed.
However, it is considered the safest type of stretch, especially when you are trying to achieve full splits. To read more about static stretching, click on this link
3. Sport Specific Warm Up Exercises
Just as the name suggests, these warm up exercises are intended for a particular sport. It can be tennis, football or martial arts. Even though it is important to warm up your entire body; these exercises focus mostly on a particular part of the body.
Take, for example; a WTF Tea Kwon Do practitioner will focus on his or her legs. They will work hard on achieving leg splits, unlike boxers who use their hands more often.
4. Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic stretches are workouts you perform with movements. You are required to perform a swinging movement to achieve your range of motion as well as flexibility.
Unlike static stretching, you don’t hold your stretch for a particular amount of time. What you are required to do is to swing your limbs, torso or lower body to the sides or downwards to reach your maximum stretch.
Just like any other form of stretching, dynamic stretching can be injurious if performed incorrectly. For that reason, experts advise that you start slowly and develop the speed as you go. To read more on this, click here
5. Cool-Down Exercises
A cool down exercise should be performed after a warm-up or an intense workout. These workouts are particularly intended to help your body transition safely to a resting state.
The main reason for this is to help your breathing and heart rate slow down and return to the comfortable level.
You do this to prevent other uncomfortable complications such as dizziness that might be caused by blood pooling in your large muscles when you stop exercising abruptly.
Just like general exercises, these workouts should take about, five to ten minutes of static stretching exercises. To read more on this, click here
Keys to a Successful Warm Up Exercise
Apparently, there are many warm up exercises you can do, but no matter how comfortable they seem, you need to perform them correctly to realize the full benefits.Here are the keys to a successful warm-up routine.
Step 1 - Start Your Exercises With General Dynamic Warm-Up
The best way to start your warm exercises is to engage in some of the lightest physical activities that don't require you to focus on technique.
Since your body is not well prepared for any intense exercise, the primary purpose of general warm-up exercise should be to raise your body temperature, not to stretch or strengthen any part of your body.
You can start with a five minute light jog. You can also include a variety of dynamic warm up exercises mentioned in this article, but ensure that you are performing them slowly and correctly to avoid injuries.
Step 2 - Follow Up With a Sport Warm Up
After general warm up, you should focus on what your sport or fitness routine demands. For example, you should focus on an exercise that targets to build or stretch muscles that you use more often when participating in your sports. Here are some examples.
- Leg speed and power – If you are a runner, a martial artist, a jumper or any other athlete or a fitness enthusiast whose sport demands leg speed and power, you can perform a variety of leg exercises. Examples include Power Clean, Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts, broad jumps, knee raises, sprints and more. Also, you can just sprint several times if you are a runner, throw kicks if you are a martial artist and more.
- Arm speed and power – If you are a boxer, a martial artist or an athlete in sports such as javelin, shot-put and more, you need to perform exercises that will help develop your arm speed and power. Some of the best exercises include push ups, pull ups, dumbbell punches, dumbbell lateral throws and more. You can also just throw your punches if you are a boxer or a martial artist and more.
When punching, use lighter dumbbells to avoid overworking or injuring your muscles. Also, make sure that you have the right dumbbells with everything including safety features, durability and more.
Step 3 – Dynamic Stretching
The two sessions above are intended to raise your body temperature so that you can perform some stretches with limited risks.
But keep in mind; no matter how hard you’ve warmed up, performing dynamic stretches without much caution can still result in injuries.
These exercises incorporate gentle bouncing or swinging motions that are intended to force your body to go beyond its usual range.
So, start slowly and gradually increase the pace as you go. Depending on your fitness routine or sport, you can choose from a variety of dynamic stretches that range from leg swings, Fire Hydrant Circles, Leg Crossovers, Scorpion, Page Turns and more.
Step 4/ Final Step – Static Stretching
As mentioned earlier, static stretching is not a good way to start your warm up exercises. However, it is important to perform it at the end of your workouts. Static stretching should be done when your muscles are fully warmed up, and joints are elastic.
Just like dynamic stretching, static stretching aims to improve your joints’ range of motion as well as your flexibility.
It also helps relax your body as well as increase circulation at the end of an intensive workout. Static stretching is vital for any fitness enthusiast or athlete regardless of fitness level.
After your warm up, you should perform a variety of exercises that includes anterior deltoid and chest stretch, shoulder joint stretch, groin stretch, calf stretches and more.
The Ten Best Warm Up Exercises
There are hundreds of warm up exercises you can choose to perform before your workouts. What you must remember is that, regardless of your sport or your workout routine, you are not limited to a particular type of warm up exercise.
Reason being, a warm up exercise is supposed to raise the temperature in your muscles. So, whether you choose to jog, run, or perform any other slow, but temperature-raising exercises, you will always benefit provided it is safe.
Here are the ten most effective, yet easiest warm up exercises that will work for you regardless of your sport or your fitness level.
1. Light Jogging
Light jogging is one of the simplest warm up exercises that will raise heart rate as well as your body temperature faster. It is also one of the best outdoor exercises.
Unlike other warm up workouts, it doesn’t require any specific skill or high level of fitness.Maintain a speed you are comfortable with for about 5 to 10 minutes. Also, you can do it indoors using a treadmill.
2. Rope Jumping
Another great warm up exercise you can perform anywhere is rope jumping. It is also one of the best exercises that will burn more calories, develop speed and more. Unlike jogging, performing rope jumping requires some few skills.
Experts recommend that you get a rope with the correct length. To know if you have the right rope, bisect it by placing it under your feet and check if the handles can reach your sternum.
Also, when performing this exercise, it is important that you jump on your feet’s balls. Also, ensure that when jumping, your hands are slightly above your waist line and most importantly, try not to jump too high as doing this might make you lose the rhythm of the rope. Aim for approximately, 8 minutes.
3. High Knees
High knees is another great warm up exercises that will get your heart pumping with time, especially if performed regularly. It is also a great way to raise your body temperature quickly.
This exercise targets some of your biggest leg muscles including the hamstrings, adductors, abductors and more.
Also, just like rope jumping this exercise requires some few skills. When starting, stand and create a space of hip width distance between your feet. Your hands should be hanging down at your sides.
Jump and lift one of your feet bringing your knee towards your chest. While lowering your lifted knee to the floor, bring the other one up towards your chest.
This motion should be continuous. Ensure that your hands are following the movement just like you would do when sprinting.
Also, ensure that you are touching the floor with your feet’s balls. Aim for 20 seconds of 3 repetitions with 10 seconds of rest in between.
4. Butt Kicks
Butt kicks are great, especially if you want to increase the temperature in the muscles at the back of your legs. It targets your butt and hamstrings. You can perform the exercise at low or high-intensity.
However, if you are doing it as a warm-up exercise, it is important that you go with the low intensity.
Also, it is one of the best exercises for athletes who use their legs more often when competing such as martial artists, footballers, runners and more.
To perform this exercise, start with your left and right knee close to each other and bring your hands along your sides.
You can then flex your right knee and bring your right legs towards your gluteus.Return it and repeat with your left leg. Aim for approximately, 5 to 8 minutes. You can also add it to your jogging workout.
5. Jumping Jacks
Another highly recommended dynamic exercise is jumping jacks. Reason being, it is easy and can be performed with much ease by anyone regardless of age or gender.
Also, it targets almost all the large muscles in your body including those in your legs, hands as well as the core.
To perform this warm-up exercise, start in a standing position and bring both your feet close to each other.
Point your toes forwards, and let your arms run along your sides. In one motion, bend your knees, jump and widen your legs out to your sides and at the same time bring your hand to the air and above your head.
Land on the floor with your feet close together and your hands back to your sides as you started and then repeat.This motion should be continuous for approximately, 30 seconds.
6. Side to Side Lunge With Dumbbells
Performing side lunge is one of the most efficient ways to warm up your lower body’s muscles. This warm up exercise is vital for athletes who get engaged in the side to side movements while competing such as tennis, basketball, football and more. It mainly targets your gluteus Maximus muscle as well as your hamstrings.
To perform side to side lunge, take dumbbells in both hands and stand straight with the distance between your feet hip-width distance.
With your left foot, take a step to your left to lower your body until your hip and knee reach 90 degrees.
At this position, your arms should be fully extended.Hold for a second and then get back to your starting position. Repeat aiming for approximately, 8 to 10 reps then do the same for the other leg.
7. Knee Lifts With Walking Lunge
This exercise targets your hamstrings, hip flexors, gluteus as well as chest. It is also one of the exercises on this list that will warm up your legs effectively.
To perform knee lifts with walking lunge, start in a standing position with the space between your feet, hip-width distance apart. With both hands, grab your left kneecap and pull it towards your chest.
Hold for a second and then release it slowly.Take a step on your front with your left leg and lower yourself into a lunge position. Hold for one second and then get back to a standing position by bringing your right leg to meet your left leg.
Now grab your right knee cup and pull it towards your chest. Pause for a second, release it and then step forward with your right leg. That should be one rep. Aim for approximately, 5 to 10 reps.
8. Hip Circles
Hip circles are among the easiest and most efficient dynamic stretching exercises. Its primary purpose is to loosen your hip muscles as well as your lower back.
Also, it trims your weight and strengthens your core. Hips circles should be performed before performing a stretch that targets your core, groin, hips as well as groin muscles.
To perform hip circles, start in a standing position with the distance between your feet wider than your shoulder width. With your hands on your hips, bend your knees slightly.
You can then proceed with rotating your hips slowly to forming big circles. You can start with a clockwise rotation for approximately, 20 seconds and then change to anti-clockwise.
9. Arm Circles
Arm circles are easy and can be done by anyone regardless of fitness level. The exercise aims to open up your shoulders and increase the temperature in your arm muscles.
It is also one of the most important warm-up exercises to do before stretching your arms and shoulders.To perform arm circles, start in a standing position just like when you are doing hip circles.
Extend both your arms out on both sides of your body. Start by slowly moving both your arms in circles.
While doing this, don’t rotate your elbows or wrists. After about three arm circles, you can pick up the pace. After performing ten arm circles, change the direction.
Inchworm is one of the warm up exercises that will work on almost every important muscle in your body including your triceps, biceps, obliques, gluteus Maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps and more.
To perform this exercise, start in a standing position with the distance between your feet slightly shorter than your shoulder width. You can then bend down to touch the ground with both your palms.
At this position, your legs should be straight, and you should feel some stretch in your hamstrings. While keeping your legs straight, walk with your hands forward until you get into a push-up position. Keep the movement gentle and controlled as possible.
In a push-up position, tighten your core. While keeping your arms straight, walk both your legs towards them until you get to a starting position.Try covering about 50-100 feet distance.
Warm Up Exercise Tips
Play Some Music
There is no better way of adding excitement to your workouts than playing some music. According to one of the well-known fitness fanatics, Alicia Marie playing music while exercising elevates your mood preparing your mind for a tough workout ahead.
Music will also distract you from demotivating thoughts, boost your efforts, help you maintain your pace and most importantly, encourage you to continue exercising. Since warming up requires you to continue exercising for some minutes, it is important that you play some music to keep yourself motivated throughout your
Start With Dynamic Movements
According to CEO of Peak performance, Joe Dowdell, it is vital that you start with progressive movements when warming up. Reason being, dynamic motions will prepare your body for a more intense workout session by raising the temperature in your muscles making it easy for you to stretch with limited risks of injuries. It will also help improve your joint’s range of motion making it easy for you to perform complex movements while exercising.
Perform a Set of Warm Up Exercise That Mimics Your Main Workouts
As mentioned earlier, warm up is supposed to prepare your body for your main workouts. When exercising, it is important to perform at least some warm-up exercises that represent your actual workouts. For example, if the main exercise for a specific day is to sprint. You can perform a variety of exercises that represents running such as knee raises, lunges and more. Doing exercises that mimic your main workouts will make it easier for you to jump straight to your main exercises immediately after warming up.
Don’t Forget to Stretch After Your Warm Ups
One mistake many athletes make is forgetting to stretch after warming up. Keep in mind; if your exercises require you to perform hard tasks that involves stretching your muscles or that impacts your joints, it is easy to get injured when you are stiff. Even though performing dynamic movement will heat up your body and put you in the mood of exercising, stiff muscles won’t be able to achieve the range of motions required. So, stretch, but remember to keep it dynamic