Whether you’re a pro athlete or just starting to get into exercise, it’s still important to warm up before diving into your full workout! Warm up exercises are one of the best ways to avoid injury when exercising, but what exactly are warm up exercises and why is warming up important?
What are warm up exercises?
Warm up exercises are gentle stretches and movements that you should do before your main workout routine to prepare your body for more intense physical activity. Doing warm up exercises helps to loosen up your muscles and raise your body temperature, which will prevent any nasty sprains or strains from tight muscles during your workout.
Why is warming up before exercising important?
The importance of including warm up exercises as part of your workout routine is not to be underestimated! One of the best ways to avoid injuries during your workout is to do warm up exercises beforehand.
Warm up exercises work by gradually increasing your body temperature and heart rate, which in turn increases to blood flow to your muscles. With your muscles now warmed and loosened up your body will be far better adapted to completing your workout, and you are less likely to feel sore afterwards too.
As well as warming up before exercise, making sure you eat the right foods can make a huge difference to your performance. Find out more in our post on the top 5 things to eat before a workout.
What are the benefits of warm up exercises?
As we’ve already mentioned, one of the main benefits of doing warm up exercises before your training is to prevent injury by gently preparing your body for a more intense cardiovascular workout.
Whilst warm ups can prevent injuries, they still happen from time to time! Here’s some more info on common sports injuries and how to recover:
Improving your performance
Going into your workout adequately warmed up can be beneficial for your overall performance too. Stretching during your warm up can help to increase your overall flexibility. Warm up exercises also improve your reflexes and agility by priming the connections between your nerve endings and your muscles.
Mentally preparing for exercise
What’s less commonly known, is that warm up exercises can also help to mentally prepare you for exercise too! Warm up exercises are a great way to psych yourself up on those days where you don’t feel motivated or perhaps if you’re nervous about taking part in a race. Starting out with a few gentle exercises that work the muscle groups you’re going to be training can help get you into the zone mentally and also ease into a more challenging workout.
Read more about the overall benefits of exercise here.
How to warm up before exercising
So, we know warming up is important, but how do you warm up properly before exercising?
The first thing to consider is the type of workout you are going to be doing. If you’re going to be running for example, you’ll want to include exercises in your warmup that work the muscles in your legs, as these are the ones that are going to be feeling most of the impact when you start to pick up your speed. If you’re doing a full body workout you should include light movements and stretches that work all of your muscle groups.
A good rule of thumb for warming up is to do a slower, gentler version of your main workout for 10 to 15 minutes before beginning more intense exercise. For running this could include some light jogging or high-knees on the spot. If you’re training with weights begin with some gentle bodyweight exercises and stretches focusing on your target muscle groups.
Examples of warm up exercises
Depending on your choice of workout, there are plenty of warm up exercises that you can do before you begin to get those muscles warmed up and ready to go. Here are a few warm up exercises you can include to work each part of the body.
Leg warm up exercises
Squats: Squats are a great warm up exercise to work your lower body muscles including your glutes, hamstrings and quads. To do a squat stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outwards. Then, whilst keeping your back straight lower your hips towards the floor, pause briefly in the squat position and then stand back up.
Knee lifts: Knee lifts are a good warm up exercise to do before running or walking. To do knee lifts stand up straight and bring up one knee at a time towards your waist touching the opposite hand. Repeat the exercise alternating sides.
Core warm up exercises
Leg raises: Leg raises are great for warming up your lower abdominal muscles. To do this warm up exercise lie flat with your back on the floor and arms to your sides. Keeping your legs as straight as possible raise them towards the ceiling then bring them back down to the floor and repeat.
Planks: Holding a plank position helps to engage your core. Start on the floor facing down, resting on your elbows with your forearms on the floor. Keeping your knees and elbows on the floor, engage your core muscles and bring your body up into a straight line, holding this position for as long as you can.
Arm warm up exercises
Arm circles: Arm circles are an easy warm up exercise to loosen up your shoulders and joints. Stand with your feet apart and your arms to your sides then swing your arms forwards in a circular motion. Do 10 reps forwards and then 10 more swinging your arms backwards.
Overhead shoulder stretches: Great for warming up your upper arms, start by raising one arm over your head and then bend your elbow to reach your shoulder blades. Place your other hand on your bent elbow and gently pull it down towards your shoulder blades. Hold the position for a few seconds and switch sides.
Warm up exercises you can do at home
All of the warm up exercises that we’ve suggested above are ideal for doing at home as they don’t require much space or special equipment. All you need are some workout clothes and a little motivation!
If you did want to include some equipment to add some variety or difficulty to your warm up, small free weights and resistance bands don’t take up much room and can be used for a variety of exercises.
If you live above the ground floor or want to work out upstairs, you may want to look for low impact warm up exercises that will minimise anything too noisy!
Warm up exercises: Final thoughts
Whatever your fitness level, warm up exercises should always form part of your workout routine! By adding just 10 minutes of warm up exercises to your workout not only will you avoid injuries, but you’ll improve your flexibility and performance too.