Warming up before you exercise isn’t optional or nice to do. It’s a must-do.
“Warming up allows the muscle to stretch to a greater length and allows for a greater range of motion and less of a chance of injury,” says Gold’s Gym Fitness Expert Andy Coggan.
Here are some basics, including a few general movements to try. You’ll also find warmups that are tailored for running, weightlifting and playing sports.
Why you should warm up
Your muscles get tight when you’re not moving your whole body. Sleeping, sitting and driving compact your body and make your muscles “cold.” When that happens, the muscles are more vulnerable and ineffective at dynamic motion.
“A cold muscle is more likely to be injured,” Coggan says. “It’s also going to affect movement and limit the range of motion. It can lead you into unsafe positions because your muscles aren’t able to elongate like they should.”
This means you’re not only minimizing the exercise benefit, but also putting your body at risk.
“Warming up will increase your movement quality,” Coggan says. “And if you do it consistently, it leads to more permanent change.
How long you should warm up
“You don’t have to spend a ton of time on warming up. It can be short and to the point,” Coggan says. “You can prepare for working out or for sports in no more than 10 minutes.” (Incidentally, that happens to be the length of a GOLD’S AMP™
stretch workout called “Home Stretch.”)
How you should warm up
Warming up isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity, says Coggan. It often involves stretching, but it’s more than that, and there’s no numbered sequence of steps that can be applied before every workout.
His advice is simple: Your actual warmup should depend on the activity you’re warming up for. In other words, do a less intense version of what you’ll be doing in your workout.
“You want to think about the movements that you are going to do and the muscles that are involved,” he says. “If you’re going to be using your legs in a certain way, start with lower intensity movements that mimic what they are about to do.”
If you’re going to run, for example, start by walking or jogging a little. If you’re going to deadlift, try squatting without the weight. These activities will stretch the muscle groups you’re about to use and get your body ready for the stress of the more taxing real workouts.
If you’re looking for a few general movements that can simulate more vigorous exercises, try some of the following:
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Side shuffles
- Raised knees
- Leg swings
- Bodyweight squats
- Glute bridges
- Arm circles
- Shoulder shrugs
Don’t forget that you want to do these movements after your workout as well to help bring your heart rate and blood pressure back to normal.
Want a more specific warmup tailored to your particular activity? Pick your exercise category below.