Should you warm up before lifting weights? And do a cool down afterward? The answer to both: Absolutely.
When you do a warmup and a cool down around any workout, including weightlifting, you get three big benefits, says Gold’s Gym Fitness Expert Andy Coggan.
- You increase your range of motion.
- You decrease your chance of injury.
- You create more permanent change in your muscles.
Because incorporating weights into your workout can target so many different muscle groups, there are a variety of ways to warm up. Here are five options, all of which should be done for 5–10 minutes before and after your workout.
1. Old-school basic move
Spend time focusing on moving your whole body with these:
- Low-intensity short jogs
- Jumping jacks
- Bodyweight lunges
Start with some light cardio, like a fast walk or gentle jog on the treadmill, or incorporate another piece of cardio equipment like a stationary bike or elliptical machine. Gradually up the intensity until you feel a moderate increase in heart rate and have a light sweat going.
3. Foam roll and stretch
Target the muscles that will be used in your session, but focus most of your attention on your tightest muscles. Foam roll these areas before stretching each one for 20–30 seconds. Do not do deep, extended stretches immediately before lifting; save these longer sessions for a post-workout stretch or another time of day.
If you’re not sure which areas of your body are the tightest, then have a fitness professional assess your movement quality and tell you. Here’s a good checklist for general prep:
4. Squat mobilization (for lower-body training days)
Grab a light weight as a counterbalance and drop into a deep squat. Keep your chest up, back straight and knees in line with your toes. From here, shift your weight back and forth, from side to side, pressing your heels into the ground and driving your knees forward over your toes one side at a time. Press your knees outward. When you get to the bottom position of the squat, “play” generally — that is, feel the movement of your muscles by leaning and moving in different directions, and push that movement in a gentle way, stretching the muscles gradually. This will prepare your hips, legs, ankles and core for the work ahead. Add some reps of full-range squats, which will prepare you for more vigorous hip movements
5. Push-up mobilization (for upper-body training days)
Begin this upper-body warmup by getting into a push-up position. Slowly lower your chest to the floor before raising your chest again, making sure to fully extend your arms. Next, lower your body one side at a time — this gets your scapulas moving, mobilizing the muscles and joints of your upper body. Then push your hips up and back (similar to a downward-facing dog pose in yoga) and then forward into a hips-down, chest-up position (similar to a cobra pose). To also engage stabilizers and rotators, try staggering your arms by placing them at different spots (for example, keep them wide apart, or bring them together so your hands form a diamond). After some push-ups and movements in this position, your torso, shoulders, arms and back should feel ready to work.
After your lifts, don’t forget to do your cool down exercises by running through these again.