You’re crunched for time. You just don’t feel like it. You’re doing cardio anyway. There are a million excuses, but you still need to warm up before a workout. Why? Because you will physically warm up. This is how you activate muscles and joints before the real exercise begins. If you’re still not convinced, let’s take it a step further.
Muscles become tight during the day, especially if you’ve been sitting at a desk for eight hours. Properly warming up the body helps your muscles – as well as joints, tendons and ligaments – become more flexible. More flexibility means less chance of injury. An effective warmup also gets the heart pumping a little harder. This promotes blood flow, sending a stream of oxygen to your muscles.
There is one caveat, though. The same warmup cannot be applied to every workout. Chest day at the gym requires much different demands than a 10-mile run. That’s why it’s important to vary your warm-up routine. Below are some quick sequences you can follow before a cardio session, before weight training and before a high-intensity interval workout.
Whether you’re running, swimming or exercising on cardio equipment, a five- or 10-minute warmup is a must-do for reducing stress on your muscles and heart. It will slowly increase your breathing and heart rate, so you won’t fatigue prematurely.
How to warm up for cardio:
Try to include dynamic stretches, such as squats with calf raise, jumping jacks or lunges with an upper-body twist. Switch between these for about five minutes. Then, start your cardio exercise, keeping the intensity to about 30 percent of your workout. Stay steady for at least five minutes before kicking it into high gear.
- If you’re going out for a run, warm up with a brisk walk.
- If you’re going to hop on a spin bike or elliptical, start with a slower cadence.
- If you’re going for a swim, choose a slow-and-consistent stroke rate.
Strength Training Warmup
Strength training warmups are particularly important to avoid muscle injury. These precious few minutes will increase your body temperature to loosen the tissues around your joints. This will allow you to reach a greater range of motion with your lifts.
How to warm up for strength training:
All you need is 10 minutes to get the blood flowing before hitting the weights. Begin with a five-minute walk on a treadmill or cycle for five minutes just to get your body moving. Then, complete a few warmup stretches that are specific to the body part you’re training. You’ll want to use light weights for your warmup set to gently prepare joints for the hard work to come. If you have any knots or kinks, spend some time foam rolling.
- For an upper-body workout, do arm circles and trunk twists.
- For a lower-body workout, perform lunges and/or mountain climbers.
Continue to warm up your muscles as you start your strength-training routine. Stick with a light set of weights for 16 reps. Remember this is not part of your regular set, and you only have to do this for your first exercise.
Plyometric/HIIT Training Warmup
Plyometric and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are demanding from start to finish. Jumping into a HIIT routine with cold muscles is asking for injury. That’s why it’s even more important to get blood flowing to your muscles and slowly increase your heart rate. And since this is a full-body workout, you’ll need to activate all your muscles from head to toe.
How to warm up for HIIT training:
Full-body active stretches are the most important and will also help with balance and coordination. Spend at least five minutes warming up your muscles and cardiovascular system with some powerful bodyweight exercises.
- Jump squats
- High knees to chest
- Jogging in place
- Jumping jacks
- Lunges with torso twists
What NOT to Do Before a Workout
- DO NOT skip the warmup! Factor in five to 10 minutes of warming up before every workout, so you never miss it.
- DO NOT go too hard during your warmup. A good warmup is not meant to deplete energy, but to get blood flowing and muscles loose to improve your workout.
- DO NOT perform static stretches (stretches you hold for 30-60 seconds) as a warmup. Many studies have shown that doing these stretches before a workout on cold muscles may actually decrease power in your workout. The benefits of stretching come after a workout, when your muscles are elongated and fully warmed up.
- DO NOT forget to hydrate before your workout and while warming up.