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How should I warm up before exercising?

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Perform the following warm-up before exercising:

Hip Rotations: Hip joint, core, butt, balance builder:
  1. Begin with hands on hips and feet together. Engage your core.
  2. Raise one leg up in front of the body at the hip and rotate it out to the side in a circle, then lower it.
  3. Reverse by raising the leg up to the side of the body at the hip and rotating it to the front.
  4. Repeat ten times and switch to the opposite leg.
Foam Roller: Buttocks, quads, hamstrings, calves:
  1. Place the roller of foam directly under the muscle group to be stretched.
  2. Place your full body weight on the roller. This may be uncomfortable, but that is all right.
  3. Pull your body back and forth slowly over the roller using your upper body. Imagine you are the rolling pin and the roller is the dough.
  4. Roll five times over each muscle group. Repeat on opposite side.
Activator: Ankles, knees, hips, hamstrings, butt:
  1. Begin in a push-up position with your weight on your hands and toes.
  2. Engage your core and keep your back flat from shoulders to ankles.
  3. Walk your ankles toward your shoulders keeping your knees straight. Continue walking forward until the stretch in the back of your legs is uncomfortable.
  4. Keep your back straight, not allowing it to arch.
  5. Pause at the top. Slowly walk your hands forward with your feet still until you are back in the push-up position.
  6. Perform five cycles.
High Knee-to-Chest Lunge: Hips, butt, hip flexors, balance:
  1. Stand with your feet together and engage your core.
  2. In a controlled manner, raise one of your knees to your chest and hold with your arms. Pause in this position to gain control of your balance. Your back should be straight and shoulders back.
  3. Lunge forward on the raised leg, keeping your knee above your ankle. Keep your core engaged and your butt tucked under to maximize the hip flexor stretch portion of the lunge.
  4. Perform five per side.
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A warm-up is generally described as preparing the body or body part for physical activity. Warming up can either be general or specific. A general warm-up consists of movement that does not necessarily have any movements specific to physical activity which will be performed. While a specific warm-up consists of movements that closely mimic those of the actual activity to be performed.  

In general, NASM recommends performing 5-10 minutes of self-myofascial release, like foam rolling, 5-10 minutes of stretching, and 5-10 minutes of light cardiorespiratory exercise before participating in exercise. During self-myofascial release and stretching to target the muscles that will be the focus of the exercise program. Cardiorespiratory warm-up should be performed except when performing high-intensity  power level exercises.  

You should always have a 5-15 minute warm-up before any workout. Your warm up should consist of a 5 minute low intensity cardio activity (treadmill, bike, or light calisthenics) and a 5-10 minute period of stretching. Depending on your present state of health and fitness you may engage in various forms of corrective stretching if you have any muscle imbalances or postural deviations. If you have progressed beyond corrective stretches, then your warm-up flexibility might be more specific to the strength or power exercises to follow your warm-up. In either case it is paramount to begin every workout with a warm-up to get your body and mind primed for physical activity.

Warm up are always good before your workouts and there are several things you can do.  Stretching is always a good start for a warm up typically only taking about 5-10 minutes depending on how tight you are.  Most stretches you are holding for about 30seconds for each one.  Another good warm up is some type of cardio like the treadmill, ellipical or bike.  Just slowly elevate your heart rate to get the blood pumping and loosen up the muscles.  Lastly you can you can incorporate your warm up into your workout.  Typically people will do light easy exercises of only 1 set of 10-20 reps or for about 60 seconds.  This also will help elevate your heart rate and loosen up the muscles for your routine.

Warming up before you stretch reduces your risk for pulled muscles and other injuries.

To Warm Up

  • Always warm up for 5–10 minutes before any physical activity.
  • Move slowly at first, using low-intensity easy movements to warm up your muscles.
  • Gently stretch for 5–10 minutes, without any bouncing. For example,  if you plan to walk for exercise, walk at an easy or comfortable pace for 5–10 minutes, then stop and stretch. Resume walking, and gradually increase the pace. Or if you plan on running, you could start out by walking and then stretching. Then try a brisk walk or any easy jog to take you into the aerobic phase.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.