10 Best Warm Up Exercises: For Women + Avoid Injury

Fitness, Training Advice, Training Tips

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // February 15, 2022


When time is tight and you struggle to get your exercise in, the first thing that gets short changed is often your warm-up! Making time for a warm-up exercise before your workout is essential.

According to certified personal trainer Chris Freytag and the Mayo Clinic, a warm-up not only provides you with a safer workout but a more effective one as well.  Warm-up exercises slowly accelerate your cardiovascular system by increasing the body’s blood flow to your muscles and raising your temperature. It’s also helpful to reduce soreness post-workout. So taking the time before you begin a workout to warm up properly is worth it!

Always do a warm up before any exercise session. A proper warm up should be done before any exercise or physical activity whether it’s three times a week or every single day. A warm up doesn’t mean stretching (save that for after), it means a lower intensity version of the physical activity you are about to do. Often thought of as the “dress rehearsal.”

The greater your intensity of workout, the longer the warm-up should be. A good indication of an adequate warm up is a light sweat!

Now you know why a warm-up is crucial but what makes for a good warm-up? Whether you are planning on doing weight lifting or cardio. Here are the 10 BEST warm-up exercises you should include and three mistakes that you should avoid when executing a proper warm-up.



10 Best Warm-Up Exercises (You Can Do At Home)

Through exercise science, we know the best warm-up is a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm-up means moving your joints through their range of motion, activating your muscles, and moving in all planes of motion. Dynamic exercises simply mean stretches that include active movement or energy.

Before you begin any cardio workout, high-impact work, leg workout, upper body workout, or weight training workout– it’s important to go through a full-body dynamic warm-up. The length of the warm-up is between 5-10 minutes.

The key to your warm-up exercise is that you use large range of motion movements to start the synovial fluid. In this dynamic warm-up, you’ll move through all planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes) to prepare your nervous system and joints for loaded movements. These dynamic exercises will get the blood flowing to all of the limbs and start to increase the heart rate up to the level it will be at for the remainder of your workout.

Follow along with these warm-up exercises!

Get familiar with the exercises, complete each exercises for a minimum of 30 seconds and move onto the next. Once you feel a light sweat dripping on your face and your body feeling warmed up, you are ready to hit your workout strong!

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Deep Squat + Arm Reaches

One of my favorite moves to begin EVERY workout with because it loosens the joints and gets the mind, breath, and body ready for what it’s about to do. Taking the biggest bodyweight squat, wakes up the lower body, reaching the arms overhead allows the shoulder joint to wake up, all while focusing on a strong breath get’s us ready for the workout to come!

Shoulder Rolls

Start with your feet hip width distance apart.

Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears. Then slowly roll them in a forward motion. After about 30 seconds, roll the shoulders in a backward position, waking up all angles of the shoulder joint.

Shoulder Squeeze/ Mini Back Bend

Start with your feet shoulder width apart in an athletic stance.

Deep breath to pull the arms up overhead. Pull them down using the lats at the back and give the shoulder blades a tight squeeze. Puffing out the chest ever so slightly to open up the front side of the body while pinching the upper back together.

Yogi Squat + Hip Rocks

The yogi squat + hip rocks is a complex movement that is great for both getting the body warm and improving overall mobility.

This movement is dynamic as you continue to rock side to side. Maybe dropping one knee to the floor and the other. The yogi squat will improve your overall range of motion in not only your hips but also your thoracic spine.

Down Dog + Heel Pedal

Begin in a downward facing dog position. Once you feel strong and want to start moving, begin to pedal your feet. Bending one knee and pressing the opposite heel into the floor.

Switch back and forth to stretch both of your calves and hamstrings simultaneously. Don’t forget to press your open armpits to the floor for a greater stretch through your back.

Alternating Runners Lunges

Runner’s lunges provides a deep stretch for the hips, hip flexors, groins and legs.

  1. Begin in a plank position with hands directly below the shoulders.
  2. Step your right foot forward to the outer edge of your mat or next to the hand on the ground.
  3. Relax through your hips and back, letting them sink toward the ground.
  4. Switch sides and repeat a few times on each side to loosen the hips on both sides.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a dynamic movement that both gets your body moving while also increasing the heart rate. This is a safer way to warm-up compared to static stretching.

Lastly, this exercise fires up the core and activates the muscles of the abdominals, shoulders, and lower back!

Bodyweight Squats

Incorporating bodyweight squats into your warm-up allows the muscles in the lower body to warm up as well as increasing the body’s core temperature. Especially if you are going to be incorporating any other styles of squats in your workout, this is a great dynamic basic movement to focus on form as well.

This movement is typically used to tone the glutes and quads! Squat it out my friends!

3 Pulse Lunges

One of my favorite movements I most recently started incorporating into my warm-ups for a few different reaasons.

  1. It fires up the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
  2. By adding the pulse, it forces you to sink lower into the bottom of your lunge.
  3. Adding a little bit of isometric holds allows the body to fire up the proper muscle groups.
  4. Sticking with dynamic movements, you continue to move even though the movement is a small pulse.

Hamstring Curls

In the previous two movements, bodyweight squats and 3 pulse squats, we have engaged the front side of the quads and the glutes. Now it’s time to stretch out the quadriceps and start to engage the hamstrings.

With a quick set of hamstring curls, you are curling your heel up towards your glute, as if you are trying to kick your butt with your heel. Adding on the upper body and pulling the arms back is going to also engage the upper back muscles. Keeping the chest open and proud.

Completing a few repetitions of this will stretch the front side of the quad, start working the upper back and your heart rate will no doubt start to climb!

 

Now that you know what to do in your warmup, let’s take a quick look at the most common mistakes people often make when warming up for their workout.

Warm-Up Exercise Mistakes To Avoid

Mistake #1: Ballistic Stretching

Ballistic stretching involves fast “bouncing” movements in a stretched position when the muscle has not relaxed enough to enter it. Inspired by misguided gym teachers everywhere, ballistic stretching became part of warm-up routines for many people decades ago. Basically, you bounce in and out of a stretched position to try and force a deeper range of motion. (Think 80s aerobic classes or bouncing in a runner’s lunge.)This is not useful and can actually lead to injury!

Mistake #2: Static Stretching

Static stretching, or holding a stretch, is an excellent idea… for the END of your workout. This stretch provides little to no benefit pre-workout and some studies have shown it can actually be detrimental to athletic performance.

When you are finished with your workout, that’s when you want to do some static stretches that last anywhere from 30-60 seconds each.

Related: 7 Workout Mistakes That Can Leave You In Pain

Mistake #3: Skipping The Warm Up Altogether

Sometimes when we’re eager to get our workout over with, we just want to get to it! The warm-up can seem tedious, and we view it as taking up important time that could be spent burning fat during our workout. So you might be surprised to know that you are, indeed, burning fat during your warm-up.

Not at the same rate as your workout of course, but burning nevertheless. Aside from that additional fat burn, there are many reasons why warm-ups are NOT a waste of your time! Look at all the benefits a warm-up provides:

  • Mobilizes your joints
  • Activates and prepares your muscles
  • Prevents injury during your workout
  • Promotes better blood flow and circulation
  • Prepares you mentally for your workout

 

Our 7-Move Dynamic Warm-Up

Prepare your body for exercise with the below guided, 7 exercise dynamic warm-up routine. This full body mobility and cardio warm up routine combines 7 of the best warm-up exercises to increase workout performance, prevent injury, and improved range of motion!

1. Arm Circles

 

Start standing with feet hip-width apart and stretch your arms straight out to the sides. Make small arms circles forward and gradually get bigger and bigger until you are making a full range of motion circles. After one minute, switch direction. Go into small backward circles then get bigger and bigger. Keep abs tight the entire time.

2. Hip Circles

 

Start standing with feet hip-width apart and arms extended or hands on your hips. Lift your right knee up and circle it inward, around to the outside of body and down, like you’re dragging your leg over a hurdle. Then do the same with the left. After 10-12 circles switch directions and circle the knee out, around and inward.

3. Down Dog With Bicycle Feet

 

Begin in a downward dog position with hands on the floor shoulder width apart, hips high in the air and feet on the floor behind you hip-width apart. Keep hands spread open, pressing them into the floor to move your chest toward your thighs. Gently press heels one at a time toward the floor for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Lateral Side Reaches

 

Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and arms at your sides. Reach right hand over your head bending toward the left as you, keep your left hand sliding down your leg and slightly bend sideways as you reach. Be sure to press right foot down firmly. Return to center and repeat with left hand.

5. Moving Side Squats

 

Stand with feet together and arms in front of chest with elbows bent. Simultaneously step your right foot to the right and sit back into a squat. Now rise to standing and pull left foot to right foot. Repeat several times moving laterally to the right. Now switch. Step the left foot out to the left as you squat and stand back up pulling the right foot in. Repeat several times moving left.

6. Reverse Lunges With Arm Arcs

 

Stand with feet 6 inches apart and arms high. Step right foot back, lowering the right knee into lunge position while at the same time open your arms out to the side. Step the right back back to the front as you bring your arms back up. Then switch to left foot and left arm. Continue stepping back into the lunge right and left 10-12 times.

7. Glute Bridges

 

Lay on your back with feet hip-width apart and arms by your side. Squeeze your glutes and abdominals as you press your hips up into a bridge position. Slowly lower back down and repeat. Lift and lower 10 times. Keep your head and neck relaxed.

Warm-Up Exercises Have Been Shown To:

1. Increase Athletic Performance – Taking a few extra minutes at the front of your workout can increase the effectiveness of your workout.

2. Reduce Risk of Injury – Properly warming up the muscles will allow your body to ease its way into the workout rather than jumping right in, which could lead to injuries and could sideline you for a couple of weeks.

3. Mentally Prepare You For A Workout – so you can make the most out of the time you have set aside for your workout. Some days you may be ready to go with your workout, and others may take a little time to get into. That’s okay! Set your mind right and ease your way into the workout!

Now you’re ready to tackle that workout injury-free with warmed-up muscles, improved circulation, and sharper mental focus!

READ THIS NEXT: 4 Common Running Mistakes To Avoid




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