Before you start your workout, don’t skip this all-important step.
Here are 10 good warm-up exercises to get your blood pumping!
You probably know to stretch before a run or a strenuous workout, but is that really the same as “warming up”?
While stretching is a great way to prep your muscles for exercise, there’s a lot more to a good warm-up exercise than increasing flexibility. In fact, when done properly, warming up has some of the same health benefits as exercise!
In this article, we’ll discuss why and how to warm up as well as 10 good warm-up exercises that’ll get your body ready for a full-on workout.
Why Are Warm-Ups Important?
Why does our body need to warm up at all? Why can’t we just jump straight into our exercise routine?
Good warm-up exercises quite literally warm your muscles. Just like a workout, a warm-up gets your heart pumping, dilating your blood vessels to supply the muscles with more oxygen. The increase in blood flow raises your temperature and makes your body more efficient. When your soft tissues are warmed up, it improves your range of motion and reduces your risk of injury.
“Wait a minute…how is this any different than exercising?”
The difference between a full-blown workout and a good warm-up exercise is that warming up raises your heart rate much more slowly. This puts less stress on the heart and ensures that you can get through your entire workout without quitting prematurely.
In fact, studies have shown that warm-ups actually help you work out more efficiently! Who wouldn’t want to maximize their efforts?
Stretching is great (and you definitely shouldn’t skip it!), but it doesn’t get the heart pumping in quite the same way as a true warm-up exercise. Instead, save it for after you’ve done some light cardiovascular activity. Once your muscles have been warmed up, stretching will be a lot easier.
10 Good Warm-Up Exercises
If you’ve been skipping warm-ups (or only been stretching), here’s a list of some good warm-up exercises to work into your exercise routine.
They might seem simple, but that’s what makes them so effective—anyone can do them!
- Brisk walking – A brisk walk that gets your heart pumping (move those arms!) is a great full-body warm-up that’ll prime you for any activity. It even burns some calories while you’re doing it.
- Light jogging – If a brisk walk is too easy, step up your game! (This is also a great secondary warm-up to transition between a walk and a run.)
- Windmills – Stand with your arms stretched to the side and your legs greater than hip-width apart. Keeping your arms straight, bend at the waist and touch each hand to the opposite foot. In addition to getting your heart rate going, this stretches your hamstrings, back, and hips.
- Marching – It sounds simple, right? But just a few minutes of marching in place (especially while alternating these other exercises) and you’ll see how difficult it is. We aren’t talking a small march, either. Bring those knees as high as you can and swing those arms.
- Lunges – Lunges are amazing at opening the hips and stretching out your lower body. They also help strengthen your core.
- Jumping Jacks – They might be “old school,” but that’s because they work! (Why do you think Coach Smith made you do them in gym class every day?) Jumping jacks get the blood pumping almost instantly and provide a great stretch for your entire body.
- Yoga – Yep! You heard us right. A simple sun salutation for 5-10 minutes will stretch out all the core muscles and ligaments it takes for exercise.
- Step-Ups – Stand in front of a small stool or low step and step up on the stool with alternating legs. (With your non-dominate leg, either lift your knee or tap the stool.) Because you have to lift your entire body weight with one leg, this is a great way to warm up your legs while also raising your heart rate.
- Shoulder Rolls – Roll your shoulders backwards and forwards. This gets your joints ready for things like weightlifting.
- Neck Rolls – Don’t forget your neck! That’s one of the easiest ones to forget…and subsequently strain! Roll your neck in circles, clockwise and counter-clockwise.
How to Warm Up
The movements listed above are all good warm-up exercises, but there’s no need to fit all 10 of them into a single session.
In fact, the American Heart Association recommends tailoring your warm-up to the exercise you’re planning to do. For example, if you’re warming up for a run, start with some light jogging or a brisk walk. But this doesn’t mean you can do 5-10 minutes of shoulder rolls and jump straight into bicep curls.
At Ludus Actius, we advise our workout warriors to warm up their entire bodies, even if it’s “leg day.” Good warm-up exercises prep your entire body and contribute to your overall fitness levels. So mix up those warm-ups!
Cooling down after a workout is just as important as warming up.
Stopping your exercise too suddenly puts a lot of stress on your heart. It may cause you to feel sick or even pass out. So listen to your body.
First, focus on lowering your heart rate gradually. This might mean slowing down from a jog to a brisk walk until your breathing and pulse have returned to normal.
Next, it’s a good idea to stretch your muscles while they’re still warm. Stretching after a workout also helps prevent soreness the next day.
Having a collection of good warm-up exercises at your disposal is just as important as having the right workout routine.
In order to get the most out of your gym session, you need to prime your muscles so they can work efficiently. Stiff, “cold” muscles simply don’t have the flexibility or oxygen needed to get them through a workout.
Wake them up with a warm-up!