Time is tight, so we know how tempting it can be to enter the gym and get right down to the business of heavy lifting, cardio, or fitness classes. But time and time again, studies show that properly warming up before workouts and cooling down after can actually increase gains in addition to helping prevent injury.
But not all warm-ups are created equally. Static stretching is popular, but not necessarily beneficial for warm-ups. In contrast, dynamic warmups increase flexibility, wake up your central nervous system and blood circulation, and can even help with form.
Here’s how to walk into your workout ready to go.
This routine should only take you about 5 minutes, with 10 reps of every exercise for one or two rounds.
This move combines the horizontal twist with a forward lunge. As you do your lunge, step forward and drop your hips without extending your front knee beyond your toes. After you’ve lunged, twist slowly toward the side of your front leg for a hip flexor stretch.
Knee to Chest
Depending on space, you can do this warm-up (imitating the top of a running stride) either stationary or while walking forward. Bring your knee up to your chest before lowering your foot to the ground, then alternate. You’ll want to try to bring your knee cap into your chest by hugging your shin while you step onto the toes of your other foot.
When you’re ready to activate your upper body, start in the pushup position and lower yourself to the ground. As you push back up, extend your right arm skyward while keeping your other arm stable and your hips from moving up or down. Bring your right arm back to starting position, then repeat with your other arm.
While dynamic stretches are the name of the game for warm-ups, cooldowns feature static stretching that you may already be familiar with. Hold each for 20-30 seconds.
You probably learned this one in gym class. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together. Grip your feet, then press down on your knees. Be sure to maintain spinal alignment and try to lengthen your spine toward the ceiling. Don’t let your hips tilt backwards.
Lower Back Extension
Lie flat on the floor and move your arms into long position, with your hands flat on the floor. (If you’ve done yoga, you know this move.) Push until your arms are fully extended, but keep your hips pressed to the floor. Reach your head toward the ceiling to extend your back.
For this one, you’ll need a doorway or a protruding wall. Place your hand, arm, and elbow flat on the wall. Push gently at an angle, tilting your shoulder blade forward. Try a few angles to help stretch your pectorals. And if you want to turn up the intensity, turn your head away while you stretch.
While these warm-ups and cooldowns are a good start, there are many more you can try that are appropriate for your fitness class or workout. If you have questions, come to Fitness Connection – our staff of fitness experts are always ready to help.