Warmup workouts were probably the most overlooked parts of my training.
Then, when I turned 40, I realized how important they actually are.
At the moment, I never start my strength training without completing my warmup sessions.
In this article, I will show you my top 15 warmup workouts. I strongly recommend that you include some of them into your training routines as well.
Interested? Let’s dive in.
Static Stretching or Dynamic Warmup?
A dynamic warmup is definitely a better way to prepare your body for exercise. And it’s backed by science.
A proper warmup is critical because it prevents injuries. It also improves your muscle performance during the workout.
Stretching, on the other hand, can actually reduce your potential before strength training.
Since nobody wants to get injured, everyone should warm up properly. And it’s more important these days than before. Think about your whole day… Sitting hunched at the computer, barely moving, your muscles cold. If you hit the gym and start lifting heavy weights without warming up, you are asking for trouble.
Stretching is a great way to cool down after an intense workout.
To perform it, you need to hold a certain position for a given time period. It will lengthen and loosen your muscles and tissues.
It’s a perfect way to improve your flexibility. When warmed up, you will stretch deeper than normal or when cold, and hold a stretch longer.
When you consistently stretch after your workouts, an increased flexibility will stay with you. This means a better range of motion in your daily life.
However, remember not to force any moves beyond feeling comfortable.
Why do static stretches after workout sessions? Well, they help your muscles relax, which is not the best thing to do before heavy lifting. Relaxed muscles won’t protect your joints in the strength training.
Although not mandatory, stretching is highly beneficial if you want to stay healthy and balanced.
In winter seasons, you need to warm up longer, as most of your blood is circulating away from the outer parts of your body.
A good warmup will improve your mobility, coordination, and strength. It should take around 6-10 minutes, depending on the intensity of the workout ahead.
You will also elevate your heart rate and prepare your muscles for the work they have to do.
As a rule of thumb, start with activating the big muscle groups. Then focus on the ones that you will work the most in the session ahead.
Think about warming up as loosening up, increasing flexibility, letting the blood flow into the muscles, nourishing them after a whole day of inactivity. Think about working towards avoiding stiffness and pain during your next workout. Or reducing the pains and aches from the previous workouts.
When the blood flows into the muscles, they become ready for the full range of motion. Use that to your advantage.
But it’s not only physical, it’s also mental. You will improve the awareness of the body position you will perform. This will prepare you mentally for the upcoming session. You will increase your mental focus and motivation.
In general, there are two ways you can activate your body. You can do a general routine or a workout-specific routine. You can also combine the two and move from the general to the specific.
In a workout-specific warmup, go through the full range of motion and mimic the movement that is going to come. Use lighter exercises or much lighter weights before moving to the proper workout.
For example, if your training consists of bodyweight exercises, then arm, legs, hips or neck rotations should be a great option.
If your workout consists of pushing heavy loads, mimic the lifts with very light weights. A good approach here is “scare tactic”. It means starting with the light weight, warming up your muscles, then doing a few reps with the heaviest possible load for the day, only to come back to your target load for the session.
Finally, if your workout is running, a simple jog will do.
15 Best Warmup Exercises
Squats engage your lower body muscles, such as glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads.
As with all warmup exercises, don’t go too deep from the first squat. You can go halfway first and then slowly go deeper, depending on your comfort and flexibility.
The same goes with the weights. If squats are your main exercise for the day, you can start adding weights once your muscles feel warmed up.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Feet facing forward or slightly to the sides.
- While bracing your core muscles, slowly start bending your knees. Next lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor or lower.
- Pause for a second at the bottom and then move up.
- Repeat the move until your legs increase flexibility and you feel warmth in your thighs.
Cat/Cow is an excellent move coming straight from yogic tradition. It’s a gentle and rhythmic way to warm up your spine and hips.
Since the move happens at the hips, it’s a great hip opener. Due to the tucking and extending movement of your hips, you will also hunch and extend your spine.
Rember, spine follows your hips here. No the other way round.
- Stand on your palms and knees.
- Hands in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips.
- Now tuck and extend your hips, let the spine follow.
- You can add breath work if you wish: inhale and tuck your hips, exhale and extend your hips.
- Repeat this movement for a few cycles. Feel the stretch and flow in your body.
Planks are the best if you want to engage your core and back muscles.
They are simple yet effective exercises with potential to challenge your whole body.
Planks can also come with additional variations such as forearm plank or a side plank. Both options target different muscle groups and change the intensity.
- Start from the push-up position.
- Hands on the floor, shoulder width apart. Elbows and knees straight.
- If this is too much for you, start with the knees bent and on the floor. If you are stronger, you can start by keeping your forearms on the floor instead of hands.
- Now whichever variation you choose, hold it for 20-30 seconds. At the same time keep your core braced and spine straight with a slightly hunched upper spine.
- Make sure your head is in line with the spine.
- Finally, release the pose and repeat.
Side lunges are a great way to work on your legs, glutes, and hips. They can improve your balance, flexibility, and coordination.
Remember to go easier at the beginning. Then with a few more reps go deeper.
Once you are warmed up, you can try reaching out to your feet with the opposite hand.
Side Lunges instructions:
- Stand straight with your feet wider than your hips.
- Now start shifting your weight to the right.
- Bend your right knee, push your right foot to the ground and straighten your left leg.
- Pause briefly and repeat the same move on the left side.
- This is one rep. Repeat until you reach the full range of motion.
Spiderman Lunge with Thoracic Opener
Spiderman stretch is a dynamic and fun way to warm up your whole body. It activates your core, hips, shoulders, and spine.
If done consistently, it will improve your mobility in a day-to-day life.
Spiderman Lunge with Thoracic Opener instructions:
- Start from the high plank position with your palms in shoulder-hip apart
- Keep your knees above the floor.
- Now move your right leg forward and place it outside of your right palm.
- Then move your right elbow to the floor.
- Finally, move your arm towards the ceiling creating a rotation in your thoracic spine.
- Reverse the whole sequence and come back to the starting position.
- Change sides.
- Repeat until you feel warmth in your body.
- Usually 6-10 reps per side is sufficient.
It’s a great exercise for everyone sitting long hours at the desk. It can be a good warm up or a cool down at the end of your session.
Scorpion stretch will target your lower back, glutes and hip flexor. It will lengthen these areas, removing stiffness and increasing the range of motion.
Scorpion Stretch instructions:
- Lie down on the floor with your arms parallel to your sides. Palms touching the floor.
- While keeping your chest on the floor, move your right leg up and touch the floor with your toes on the left side of your body.
- Turn your head right.
- Now go back to the center and change sides.
- Repeat this movement for a few cycles. Feel the twist and stretch in your body.
90/90 Hip Switch
This movement is an excellent warmup for your lower body. It will challenge your hip mobility, introducing internal and external rotation of your hips.
Hip switch may look like a static stretch, but in fact it’s a dynamic move that will target mainly your gluteus muscles.
90/90 Hip Switch instructions:
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your palms on the floor behind you or clasped in front of your chest.
- Move both legs to the right and put both knees on the floor. The right leg on the outer side and the left leg on the inner side.
- Your both knees should be bent at around 90 degree angle. Keep your torso up.
- Use the power of your legs only.
- Change sides and move both your legs to the left side.
- Repeat this movement for a few cycles, feeling the rotation and stretch in your hips.
The Hip Airplane
The hip airplane will help you activate your glutes and core muscles. It will also strengthen your hips.
It’s common to find this exercise in physical therapy. Hip airplane is a great barometer for general hips health and mobility.
The Hip Airplane instruction:
- Stand tall with your legs shoulder distance apart.
- Lift your left leg up behind you while tilting your torso forward 30-35 degrees.
- Balance on your right foot. Your hips, left leg, and torso should be in a straight line.
- Extend your arms to the sides.
- From there, you will be pivoting around your right hip by lowering your left hip and then moving it up.
- Avoid rotating in the thoracic area. The pivot point is your hips.
- Repeat this movement for 10-15 times.
- Switch legs.
Inchworms are a compound exercise. You will engage many muscle groups at the same time.
It will strengthen your upper body and simultaneously stretch your hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
- Stand tall in a natural way.
- Bend at your hips and put your fingertips or palms on the floor in front of you.
- Keeping your legs straight, walk with your hands forward simultaneously lowering your hips.
- Walk until you find yourself in a plank position, with your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Then move back with your palms to your toes.
- Come back to standing.
- Repeat 6-10 times.
Downward Dog Toes Taps
This move will activate your posterior chain and shoulders.
It may help you reduce back pain and at the same time increase flexibility and balance. Especially in the thoracic area thanks to the cross-body hand reaches.
Downward Dog Toes Taps instructions:
- Start in a downward dog position. Keep your hands and feet on the floor and your hips lifted up. Your body should form an inverted V shape.
- Engage your core and keep your back straight.
- Reach out with your right arm to touch your left foot or ankle.
- If you can’t reach your foot, just go as far as you can without losing your form.
- Then return to the downward dog position and repeat with your left arm and right foot.
- Do 6-10 reps for each side or until you feel warm in your body.
Lateral Sling Stretch
During the day we don’t really have a lot of chances to stretch the lateral side of our bodies. Especially if we don’t move a lot or sit throughout the day.
Also, most of the time we move backwards or forwards.
However, we do really need a transverse movement to function in the best possible way.
Lateral Sling Stretch instructions:
- Stand tall with your feet in a hip stance.
- Interlock your fingers over your head and extend your arms.
- Now lean to the right while keeping your legs, hips, torso, and hands in one plane, parallel to the front wall.
- You should feel a stretch on the left side of your body.
- Come back to the center and lean to the left.
- Repeat this movement for 10-20 times on each side.
It’s the classic bodyweight exercise. Push-ups engage your chest, deltoids, and core muscles.
They are a great way to build strength and endurance without any equipment. You can easily modify the difficulty of this exercise by changing your body position.
To make it less challenging, you can do it while kneeling on the floor. To make it more challenging, you can do it with your feet higher.
Remember, the higher your feet are, the more you will engage your shoulders and upper chest.
- Start in a plank position.
- Keep your hands flat on the floor, slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Your elbows, knees, and spine should be straight and your core engaged.
- Your feet can be together or shoulder-width apart.
- Then lower your body just above the floor while keeping your spine neutral.
- You can flare your elbows out or keep them close to your body.
- Move back to the plank position by straightening your elbows.
- Repeat as many times as it feels comfortable.
Downward and Upward Dog
Two yoga poses that are excellent for spine mobility. The movement is similar to the cat/cow pose but it works deeper.
Downward and upward dog warm up the lumbar and thoracic spine simultaneously.
Being corrective in nature, this exercise is also great at relieving back pain, especially after a long day spent at the desk.
Downward and upward dog instructions:
- Start by standing tall with your feet in hip distance.
- Hinge at your hips and put your palms on the floor.
- Now walk with your palms forward while keeping your knees straight and lowering your hips.
- When you reach the plank position, push through your palms and move your hips up, towards the ceiling.
- Keep your palms flat on the floor, knees straight, and try to put your heels on the floor. This is the downward dog pose.
- Next, lower your hips just above the floor while pushing your chest up and forward.
- Keep your knees straight above the floor, elbows also straight with the inner parts of them rotating forward.
- Push your shoulders down and back. This is the upward dog pose.
- This is one cycle. Repeat both positions in quick succession 6-10 times.
Our shoulder joints are often weak and stiff due to long hours that we spent hunched in front of the computer.
Arm rotations is a great warmup exercise for the shoulder joints. It can help you prevent shoulder injuries by improving your mobility and blood circulation.
There are different types of arm rotations. Generally, I would recommend doing them one by one in quick succession. 5 or 10 movements in each variation would be ideal.
5 possible dimensions of arm rotations:
1. Rotate both arms forward in wide circles.
2. Repeat the same move but move your arms backward.
3. Raise your arms up in line with your shoulders and rotate them clockwise in small circles above your head.
4. Repeat the same move but in an anti-clockwise direction.
5. Lower your hands. Keep them close to your sides and rotate them in small circles in both directions, clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Leg rotations will warm up your hips.
You will improve your hip mobility, flexibility, and stability.
You can do each rotation 10-15 times per leg, as long as you feel comfortable.
2 possible dimensions of leg rotations:
- Forward and backward lift:
- Start with your right leg. Stand straight and balance on your left foot. Bend your right knee and pull it close to your belly. Then straighten your right knee while moving your right leg back as far as it feels comfortable. Change sides.
- Side rotations:
- Start with your right leg. While keeping your torso upright, raise your right knee towards your belly. Then while up, rotate it to the side in a wide arc. Keep your right foot off the floor and repeat this move 10-15 times. Now repeat the same rotation 10-15 times but in the other direction. Finally, change legs and repeat the same move on the left side.
What to do next?
Now that you know how to warmup your body, let’s dive into the proper strength training. Choose the exercises that you are interested in and start your session:
Squats, Bench Press, Dumbbell Lateral Raise, Deadlift, Dumbbell Bench Press, Shoulder Workouts.
Is it Important to Separate Stretching from Warming Up?
Yes. Before the workout, you have to warm your body up. Do it with the dynamic moves.
Static stretching is the most beneficial as a cooldown routine. Your body can move freely in all directions without the danger of pain.
Do I Have to Do All the Above Warmup Exercises in One Go?
No. Choose 4 or 5 exercises which will best suit your needs for a given session.
Make sure to rotate these workouts to include all of them in the course of 2-3 weeks.
How to Stretch Safely?
Make sure you have warmed up your body and never go beyond the level of comfort.