This Is The Women’s Health Fitness Editor’s Go-To Warm-Up Before Any Workout

A few minutes can make a major difference!


Wanita Nicol |

Doing a warm-up before your workout can feel like a waste of time, especially if you’re not sure what said warm-up is meant to entail. But I’ve learnt the hard way (getting injured, ugh) that this is one part of your workout that you do not want to skip. And it’s not just about avoiding injury; there are actually all kinds of benefits to doing a thorough warm-up before exercise.

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Doing A Warm-up Gets Your Head In The Game

Just like you can condition a dog to start salivating at the sound of a bell that it associates with food (thanks Pavlov!), you can condition your body to get amped for exercise in response to a trigger, too. Even when working out is the last thing you feel like doing.

READ MORE: Add These 4 Warm-Up Moves To Any Workout To Activate Your Butt Muscles

Doing the same basic warm-up before every workout signals your body to get primed for exercise: As soon as you start that familiar movement pattern, your heart rate will start to increase slightly and your brain will begin releasing feel-good chemicals associated with working out. By the time you’ve finished the warm-up, you’ll be ready to go. What’s more, results of a meta analysis of 32 studies found that warming up boosts physical performance. Going for a PB on your back squat? Warm up first!

Lower Risk Of Injury

People often confuse warming up with stretching. But stretching cold muscles isn’t actually a good idea because it can cause the muscle to cramp up or spasm. Plus, a study of football players in the journal Plos One found dynamic stretching to be most effective as a warm-up. That means gentle movements that take your joints through their full range of motion and engage the muscles that you’ll be using in the main workout.

READ MORE: 8 Best Low-Impact Cardio Workouts That Still Burn Major Calories

The result is that blood flows to those areas, your joints are lubricated and you switch on mind-body neural pathways. All of these factors will help you move better in your workout, reducing your risk of hurting yourself.

Watch the video…

Basic Full-Body Warm-Up

This is my go-to warm-up routine that I do before pretty much any training session to wake up my whole body. But I’ll tweak it a bit to give extra attention to areas where I might be feeling tight and depending on what kind of workout I’m going to be doing. For example, if I’m going to be doing a lot of high planks or handstands, I’ll spend more time warming up my wrists. Before a run, I’ll focus on my legs, hips, ankles and glutes.

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1/ Neck Warm-Up

Do: 10 of each

Nod your head up and down, shake your head side to side and gently roll your chin from shoulder to shoulder. Be careful not to force your neck to stretch beyond where it’s comfortable; that could cause a spasm.

2/ Shoulder Warm-Up

Do: 20 of each

Feeling cold as you start your warm-up? Rapidly shrug your shoulders forward and back and you’ll soon notice heat starting to spread through your body. Then do arm circles forward, then backwards. Start with small circles and gradually get bigger. For the backward circles, turn your palms up to the ceiling.

3/ Spine Warm-Up

Do: 10 twists; 10 trunk circles; 3 roll-downs; EXTRA: 10 cat and cow

Breathe in before your roll down and slowly breathe out as you lower your body vertebra by vertebra. Take another breath at the bottom and reverse back to start on another exhale. When my lower back feels tight, I like to spend to spend a few breaths swaying side to side at the bottom of the roll-down and add the cat and cow to my warm-up.

4/ Chest Warm-Up

Do: 10 each way

Turning your palms outwards also helps activate the upper back.

5/ Hip Warm-Up

Do: 5 low squat over head reaches on each side; 10 of each kind of leg swing on each side; EXTRA: 5 heaven and earth each side

Hold onto something if you need help with balance in the leg swings. When my hips are feeling really tight, I add in 5 reps each side of heaven and earth.

6/ Ankles

Do: 20 of each

My ankles roll easily, so I never leave them out of my warm-up. It’s especially important if you’ll be skipping, running or jumping.

7/ Wrists

Heavy loads can put a lot of strain on these small joints so this is another warm-up that I never skip.

READ MORE ON: Fitness Stretches Workouts