Warm up exercises can transform your workouts

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  • You are in the gym and need inspiration or want to change your routine? The best warm-up exercises are in…

    Looking for the best warm up exercises? Newsflash: You are in the right place. While it may sound like half-hearted stretching or gym class at school, there are actually a whole host of fun, dynamic ways to warm up your muscles that, whether you’re a pro athlete or a newbie to exercise, are key to a whole host of reasons from preventing injuries to improving performance.

    So picture the scene: you’re in your best fitness leggings and you’re ready to break through one of your favorite fitness workouts. But now you have absolutely no idea what warm-up exercises to start with.

    That’s where this article comes in. We asked the experts for their opinions on which warm-ups outperform all and whether they’re actually as important as everyone thinks they are – and you’ll be surprised. Keep scrolling for advice from Personal Trainer Alin Cause and Jen Buddington, Personal Trainer and Level 3 Hatha Yoga Instructor, both at PureGym.

    Warm-ups: Your Complete Guide

    What is a warm-up and how long should it last?

    Getting back to basics, let’s start with a definition. Warm-up exercises are simply a series of movements you perform before a workout to prepare your body for the workout. The best part? They really only need to last five to ten minutes for you to reap the benefits.

    You can create your own warm-up routine – meaning you can choose which ones you prefer from the suggested movements at the bottom of this page (there is no one-size-fits-all exercise). As Cause says, “The best warm-up exercise is the one you enjoy doing because you’re more likely to stick with it than another you don’t enjoy”.

    He goes on to explain, “As long as there’s some form of stretching in your routine that targets the muscles you’re going to work coupled with some heart-pounding activity, you have a solid warm-up routine.”

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    Are warm-ups important?

    Short answer: yes. “Warming up is crucial to achieve optimal performance,” reveals Cause. He also shares that they’re super useful when it comes to preventing injuries like the one above that keep you from working out.

    Research from 2007 backs this up as it suggests that “warming up and stretching has the most positive outcome in preventing injuries”. So apart from injury prevention, where else are they important?

    Well, incorporating mobility exercises into a warm-up is great because it helps “lubricate the joints while low-intensity aerobic activity gets your heart rate up,” Cause adds.

    Buddington tells us that warming up is important because it’s beneficial to “increase blood flow, make sure your muscles are getting oxygen, and slowly increase your heart rate, which minimizes the strain on your heart.”

    “In addition to preparing your body for either aerobic or anaerobic activity, a warm-up also helps you focus, which is an essential part of getting the most out of a workout,” Cause says.

    In case you needed another reason to add to the list, a 2015 review found that “a dynamic warm-up could increase power, strength, and overall performance.”

    Count us among them.

    What happens if I don’t warm up?

    Good question. While both PT experts have stressed the importance of warm-ups, we wanted to know: are they essential and what happens if you skip a warm-up?

    Buddington shows that skipping a warm-up can increase the workload on the cardiovascular system. A recent study found that 70% of those who failed to warm up before exercising on a treadmill had abnormal EKG readings. “This is due to insufficient oxygen supply to the heart – essentially their hearts were not ready to work at the high frequencies required for the intense exercise.”

    If they had warmed up, they would have prepared their bodies for the intense workout. So does it matter what type of warm-up you do, and should it differ depending on your workout of choice? Another yes (we explain the different types of warm-ups below). As Buddington explains, “Static stretching has actually been shown to negatively impact performance and reduce muscle strength.”

    However, she adds that not everything is bad – static stretches do improve flexibility so it’s not worth changing entirely. A 2018 study found that stretching improves blood flow and that “this improved blood flow aids in muscle recovery.” Sounds good to us.

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    What is the difference between dynamic and static warm-ups?

    Of course, a traditional approach to warming up is stretching, also known as a static warm-up. This literally means that you stand still while stretching.

    Dynamic stretching is a more modern approach to warming up in the form of dynamic stretching – an active, movement-focused warm-up that may not sound exciting, but it definitely is.

    Need more clarification on the difference between old and new? Simply put, “Dynamic stretches are ‘controlled movements’ that target specific muscle groups, ligaments, and soft tissues before the demands of the exercise or activity are met,” Buddington explains.

    While static stretches “are held in a single position for periods of time typically 15 to 45 seconds,” says Ursarche, think calf stretches or cat-cow stretches.

    Incorporating static stretches is a great way to increase range of motion because it involves “moving a joint as far as you can and holding it in that position for a specific amount of time.” Keep that in mind, but not for too long.

    But cause cautions against holding static stretches extensively. It’s recommended to hold stretches for between 10 and 90 seconds because, as mentioned above, longer warm-up times have been shown to be counterproductive.

    Now you have learned more about the pros and cons of training. Here are some sample videos to help you try it from home or the gym.

    The 10 best pre-workout warm-ups

    Our two experts share their top ten warm-up exercises to choose from before your next workout, and Ursarche explains why They are good warm-up exercises.

    1. Arm circles

    “This exercise helps improve mobility and flexibility in the shoulders and helps the shoulder muscles and joints prepare for physical activity.”

    2. Downward facing dog to runner’s lunge

    “This exercise stretches and strengthens the muscles of the legs, hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, and back, but also engages the upper body and helps you mobilize the wrist and shoulder.” The video below also has a few others to try .

    3. Leg swing forward

    A great warm-up exercise to warm up and stretch your hip joint and muscles. It’s also good for your hamstrings. Start slow and work your way up to a full range of motion.

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    4. Cat Cow Stretch

    Increase your general flexibility with this stretch. Breathe in and out while gently warming up your spine to prevent back pain and release tension before you begin your workout.

    5. Cross trainer

    “The cross trainer is an efficient way to warm up. The movement goes through all major joints, mobilizing all joints within a single exercise. The intensity should be light to moderate, and the key is to activate both hands and legs instead of pushing with your legs and barely holding the handles. A good practice is to alternate pushing and pulling to fully activate the upper body.”

    6. Jumping Jacks

    “An excellent way to mobilize your legs and shoulders and prepare for exercise, but they can also be a very efficient heartbeat.” If you have knee problems, this isn’t recommended.

    7. Hamstring mobility + thoracic rotation

    “This exercise allows you to fully activate the legs and core. Thoracic rotation can help open the chest, improve breathing, and reduce tension and pain in the surrounding joints.

    Can be done perfectly before squats as it improves depth but also mobilizes the upper body. For barbell squats, a full-body warm-up can make a big difference in your performance as your core and arms stabilize the barbell on your shoulders.”

    8th. Touching the ground while crouching

    “The squat fully mobilizes your leg and helps you prepare for your leg session. Touching the ground is a way to check if you crouched low enough.”

    9. Overhead stretch

    “Overhead stretches on your upper body help release stiff shoulders, but also target the chest, forearms, or triceps to a lesser extent.”

    Begin by interlacing your fingers above your head. Then, rotate your palms up while pushing your arms back and up. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then relax and repeat. Easy.

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    “This exercise is good for flexibility, endurance and coordination. It also helps you improve your balance while being an efficient heartthrob.”

    Happy warm-up – next stop? Time to smash the gym workout of your choice.

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